1. ITV Report

Somerset food waste to provide energy for homes

Food waste will be turned into power for homes Photo: ITV West

Collecting waste food is a huge enterprise. The average household only puts a few kilos in their brown bins each week but it adds up to 20,000 tons every year.

At the moment it's turned into compost near Castle Cary but that process uses electricity to heat the stuff up. The plan now is to make that old phrase where there's muck there's brass come to life.

At the Walpole Landfill site near Bridgwater, the waste company Viridor is about to spend £10m building a biogas plant to turn that food waste into enough power for 2,000 homes.

The partnership of councils that collects our waste has come up to March in Cambridgeshire to see the type of plant they'll be using. The perfect guests they've brought a consignment of foul smelling rotting food with them.

Food waste from Bridgwater gets sent to Cambridgeshire Credit: ITV West

Food waste that people have thrown away in Bridgwater goes to Cambridgeshire to see how the system copes with the starch bags that people use to put their food waste in.

The rubbish is scooped up and shredded by the tractor as it is dumped into the hopper. The air in the warehouse is changed eighteen times a day, because the smell is worse than evil.

But Waste Partnership boss Steve Read has the smell of profits for taxpayers in his nostrils.

We're going to be generating electricity which can go into the National Grid. We have the potential of using the gas in the future, either directly into the national gas grid or even using it to run some of our vehicles. So it's extremely exciting as this material has energy value and this process liberates that energy in a way that we can use back in a household way or in the way we collect that material.

– STEVE READ, Somerset Waste Partnership
Shredded food is turned into electricity Credit: ITV West

The shredded food is dropped into a tank where water is added. The foul smelling gloop is then pumped into a digester tank which acts as a giant stomach. Billions of bacteria eat the organic material for 18 days and the happy result from their gluttinous feast is a massive amount of gas, which goes off to power a turbine to make electricity.

Unlike much energy creation it's difficult to find opponents to biogas.

No Anaerobic Digestion almost ticks every box for renewable energy. It's diverting food waste away from landfill. It's producing renewable energy twenty four hours a day. It doesn't matter if the wind doesn't blow, it doesn't matter if the sun doesn't shine, and it produces a fertiliser that can be applied to land which replaces man made fertilisers, so it wins on a number of fronts really.

– DORIAN HARRISON Monsal, biogas plant builders

The Walpole site in Somerset should be up and running sometime next year and will take industrial food waste too.

So when you throw away those tea bags bear in mind your efforts should bring about £200,000 profit back to us taxpayers. Now all we've got to do is stop throwing so much good food out with the bad, but that is another story.