With the help of a leading environmental food waste-to-energy company, ingredients and convenience foods producer Greencore Group claims to have found an answer to the challenge of food waste disposal – particularly that of raw animal by-products – in an environmentally sustainable way.

Greencore is working with Innovative Environment Technologies (Inetec) and other partners to convert organic waste and packaging contaminated with food residues into bio-fuel. Operations will commence in around 12 months.

Patented technology

Inetec is a private venture-capital-based company located in south Wales that has patented technology to convert mixed food and packaging waste into dry and stable bio-fuel for the production of steam, hot water and electricity. Its waste-processing equipment produces a stable bio-fuel from the waste as a high-value energy source.

This is converted into gas, which, in turn, is converted into 10 to 12 megawatts of renewable electricity for the National Grid (equivalent to power for 15,000 homes) by another partner in the project – NEL Power, an engineering firm based in north Yorkshire.

Heat is recovered in the process to assist in processing the waste or, alternatively, steam can be produced for use at adjacent facilities. The result, says Greencore, is a reduction in waste to landfill, a reduction in CO2 emissions and the production of residual ash (around 10% of the original weight), which can be used in the building industry.

Several government agencies have been helping to advance the project, including the Carbon Trust, the Welsh Development Agency, the North West Development Agency and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Reduce and recycle

Greencore chief operating officer Tony Hynes says: “Over recent years we have redoubled our efforts to reduce waste and recycle materials wherever possible. This is an exciting opportunity to transform the way other difficult food wastes are handled.

“It provides an economic and environmentally sustainable method that fits government initiatives to promote privately funded disposal schemes.”

Commenting on the project, Inetec MD Phil Nicholas says: “This project provides an effective food solution that contributes towards a more sustainable environment.”