Arla urges UK government to maximise dairy waste-to-biogas potential
The organisation said figures show that, with support, nearly 91 million metric tons of manure and slurry and 10 million tonnes of food waste could be turned into 8 billion cubic meters of biomethane, enough to heat 6.4 million homes or run around 3.8 million of the UK’s buses and heavy goods vehicles.
However, a far higher level of investment would be required in the anaerobic digestion system to produce this sustainable gas at scale. At the moment Britain is currently only making the most out of a quarter of the 170 million tons of organic waste produced in this country each year.
On the back of its recent "poo power" trials in 2020, which saw Arla turn cow excrement from 500 cows into 27,000 liters of biofuel for two trucks, Arla has now invested in permanent moves to tap into this energy source. The dairy cooperative has started to use slurry along with food that would otherwise go to waste from its distribution site in Hatfield to power seven trucks. And the digestate by-product of the anaerobic digestion process is a natural fertiliser that will be used on farms and which is more stable and less likely to impact on air or water quality.
However, Arla would like to take this much further. With 2,100 dairy farmers in the UK, the cooperative’s farmers’ cows produce millions tonnes of slurry (excrement) each year and when coupled with food that would otherwise have gone to waste Arla alone has the potential to turn tonnes of waste into valuable, reliable and sustainable fuel. Increasing the number of vehicles running on cow excrement and food waste products will result in a reduction in vehicle emissions of 80% and using the digestate coming out of the AD process instead of fertiliser on crops reduces on-farm emissions by a further 7%.