If you haven't heard about anaerobic digestion yet, where have you been? This innovative treatment is an ideal way for businesses in the agricultural and industrial sectors to recycle their waste and cut their carbon footprint. In the 2007 Waste Strategy for England, businesses were encouraged to consider anaerobic digestion (or AD) as a way to assist in meeting the UK energy targets.
Anaerobic digestion isn't just some new fad though - this technology has actually been around since the 1800s. But, as concerns about the environment grow, so has the demand for ways to generate renewable energy and, as a result, more and more businesses have been investing in AD over the past few years.
But if you're still feeling a little left in the dark, don't worry. In this post, written by GTS Maintenance, you'll find everything you need to know about this clever technology!
What Is Anaerobic Digestion?
The term anaerobic digestion refers to a special treatment applied to organic materials. It can be applied to a range of natural biodegradable materials, including food waste, slurry, sewage sludge and manure. This material, known as biomass, is naturally broken down until it emits a new gas - known as biogas. Biogas is a methane-rich gas, comprising of around 60 per cent methane and 40 per cent carbon dioxide. This gas can then be used to generate energy.
How Does it Work?
The process takes place inside an anaerobic digester; a large, sealed tank which is void of oxygen. The biomass is heated to around the temperature of blood, when it will react with the naturally occurring micro-organisms and bacteria. It goes through four stages; hydrolysis, acidogenesis, acetogenesus and methanogenesis. The end result is that the biogas is emitted and a material called digestate is left behind. Both the gas and the digestate material can be re-used, therefore making it a very effective way to recycle your waste materials.
What Are The Benefits?
AD provides many businesses with a way to turn the waste products they inevitable produce into new, clean energy, which can then be used on their own site. It can be utilised by any industry which produces food or sewage waste, including agricultural, sewage and food processing, and there are different sized systems available dependent on the amount of waste produced.
The methane-rich biogas which is generated can be used as a source of renewable energy to power electricity generators and provide heat. It can even be altered further and upgraded to filter out the majority of the carbon dioxide - the end result is biomethane, which can then be used as vehicle fuel or to provide gas. Plus, the digestate can be used as fertiliser, suitable for organic farming systems.
By utilising anaerobic digestion, you can help reduce the amount of waste which you are sending to landfill. This in turn helps to reduce harmful emissions of harmful greenhouse gases, as biodegradable material which is simply sent to landfill will emit a large amount of methane, and carbon dioxide if it is simply left to rot.
How Widely Used Is This Technique?
The spotlight has fallen on waste over recent years. Currently, England generates around 177 million tonnes of waste a year - a disproportionate amount to what is reused or recycled. The government are trying to put measures in place to move towards a zero waste economy, which means that waste resources are fully valued and everything that can be reused and recycled is.
As part of this, the UK government and the European Union Directive have begun to introduce legal and financial incentives for diverting waste away from landfill, so taking advantage of this technology could even bring financial benefits for your business too.
Additionally, more people are looking to businesses to set an example when it comes to waste management and energy use. By utilising a technology which uses waste to create clean energy, you can help enhance your business's reputation and values, reflecting your business as a responsible, conscientious company.
By investing in anaerobic digestion for your business, you will be taking a step towards making your business greener, and helping the country meet its waste disposal and energy consumption targets.
This guest blog was written by Emma Williams on behalf of GTS Maintenance. GTS Maintenance design, install and maintain anaerobic digesters for businesses.