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Retail giant Sainsbury’s goes green by turning food waste into energy

Ten per cent of Sainsbury’s annual national gas consumption is being provided by a partnership processing its own food waste, the UK supermarket giant said.

Sainsbury’s has linked up with UK-based food waste recycler ReFood to turn inedible food waste from two of its depots into gas, heat and fertiliser through anaerobic digestion (AD).

Nearly 50 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of biomethane gas have been produced through the partnership, according to ReFood, and in the last year enough gas has been created to continuously power 5,000 homes for 12 months, which the supermarket says equates to 10% of its national gas consumption for the year.

As part of the partnership, food waste is collected from Sainsbury’s’ two depots in Sherburn-in-Elmet and Haydock, Merseyside, before being converted into gas, heat and fertiliser at ReFood’s state-of-the-art AD processing facilities.

The green gas is then exported to the national gas grid by ReFood and, through a third party, is imported by Sainsbury’s stores nationwide – being used to generate carbon-neutral electricity for power and heating.

According to Sainsbury’s, the agreement is one of the largest of its kind in the UK, seeing ReFood supplying both green gas and supporting certification.

As a result of the partnership, ten stores have already significantly increased their use of renewable energy, while lowering utility bills.

The partnership also helps to deliver Sainsbury’s commitment to send zero operational waste to landfill, by finding a use for inedible waste products. All surplus edible food is donated to local charity partners.

‘Key corporate priority’

Commenting on the project, Paul Densham, utilities buyer at Sainsbury’s, said: “Increasing the sustainability of our UK stores is a key corporate priority and we’re making great progress in our drive to reduce food waste across the business. Working in partnership with ReFood allows us to effectively recycle our food waste while creating green gas.

“What’s more, it sits well alongside our wider sustainability goals, such as working with food redistribution charities and prioritising sustainable transport strategies. The project has helped us to become a market leader in sustainability and waste reduction, ensuring that we send zero waste to landfill – a promise we’ve been able to make for some years now.”

Philip Simpson, commercial director at ReFood, added: “Using our national network of processing plants, we’ve provided a truly sustainable solution for stores across the UK.

“Generating a significant volume of green gas in result, the partnership has enabled Sainsbury’s to use less fossil fuels, minimise utility bills and eliminate unnecessary food waste disposal. What’s more, with a highly effective sustainable biofertiliser also generated via the AD process, stores nationwide are working together to effectively close the food supply chain – from farm to fork and back again.”

Anaerobic digestion is a natural process where organic materials are broken down by naturally occurring micro-organisms. This releases biogas that can be used to generate renewable heat and power, helping to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, while minimising greenhouse gas emissions.