You probably don’t think about it, but the amount of food that’s wasted each day by restaurants, supermarkets, and individual consumers is nothing short of staggering. By some estimates, as much as 40 percent of the total food produced in the world is wasted, and sent off to rot in a landfill somewhere. But one company is pioneering a solution to this problem, and has cooked up a way to put all that refuse to good use.
Sainsbury’s, a popular UK supermarket chain, is taking sustainable power to a whole new level by transforming it’s own food waste into usable electricity. The company’s store in Cannock, in central England, is now run entirely from energy harvested from recycled refuse. In other words, the food that doesn’t get purchased and has to be thrown out is instead collected, and used to –quite literally– keep the lights on. Here’s a quick rundown of how it all works:
To start, any food that’s gone bad (and can’t be donated to local charity organizations or turned into livestock feed) is collected by Sainsbury’s fleet of vans and transported to a nearby anaerobic digestion plant run by a company called Biffa. Here, the food is placed inside of a large, oxygen-free chamber in which special microorganisms are introduced. Slowly but surely, these little guys help break down the organic material inside the chamber, and collectively produce a large amount of biomethane gas, which is used to power the store.
Biffa’s processing plant providies energy to more than just Sainsbury’s, but recently, a 1.5-kilometer cable (slightly less than a mile) was installed that connects the store directly to the processing plant, making it the first major retailer that isn’t reliant on the country’s national grid for its power.
Obviously, this novel setup wouldn’t work everywhere, but even so, it stands as a shining example of how sustainable, eco-friendly business practices can actually be profitable if implemented correctly. For more info, head over to BBC and check out their video interview with Sainsbury’s Head of Sustainability, Paul Crewe.