Irish food manufacturers: slash costs with anaerobic digestion

With climate change higher on the social and industrial agenda than ever before, the time is now for Ireland’s food manufacturers to wake up to the cost-reducing, eco-saving benefits of anaerobic digestion.

Why anaerobic digestion?

Ideally we would live in a world with no food waste. Yields would match demand perfectly and there would be no expensive waste by-product from the manufacturing process to be disposed of. Unfortunately, that’s simply not realistic. Even with data-driven automated food manufacturingthe problem of food waste can’t be eliminated completely.

Anaerobic digestion takes the problematic and turns it into the profitable. Mitigating the environmental impact of increasing landfill (by diverting that produce into an energy source), and creating a revenue stream from a waste stream is a great trade-off. It’s also becoming a necessity as compliance with more onerous emission limits becomes an increasingly pressing issue. Not least with the Foodwise 2025 targetslooming ominously on the horizon.

What are the advantages of anaerobic digestion?

Sustainability targets are only ever going to get more stringent. Early adopters of anaerobic digestion will be making an investment towards their ecological responsibilities and getting ahead of legal requirements. Perhaps best of all, anaerobic digestion is a simple technology. Modern iterations of the equipment are straight-forward to operate and maintain. The procedure has been poked and prodded and optimised and refined. It works. And it’s largely autonomous, with many companies outsourcing operational support rather than hiring specialist staff.

The sludgy response to anaerobic digestion

The benefits of anaerobic digestion are clear. So why has up-take in Ireland been so sludgy? What could be a huge step forward in national waste management simply isn’t happening. Myths about Anaerobic Digestionare abound. (No, it’s not smelly.) And government incentives are thin on the ground.

As such,biogas production simply hasn’t been factored into many food manufacturer’s plans for sustainability. One common assumption from large food manufacturers seems to be that it is possiblymore cost-effective to achieve sustainability targets by investing in other initiatives, such as green packaging. Meanwhile small – mid level manufacturers assume that anaerobic digestion and biogas is simply too expensive to pursue. In reality these shouldn’t be barriers to adopting AD, yet the beliefs persist.

The future of food production

Ireland’s food and drinks industry could do much more to promote and illustrate the effective and efficient use of the technology. It’s catching on next door in the UK and growing steadily in the USA. Perhaps there’s a need for legislative reward in the harnessing of wastewater for bioenergy and biosludge products?Recognition at government level would go a long way to encourage this method of operational sustainability. Anaerobic Digestion is a green alternative to food landfill and waste that paves the way for a sustainable future in energy production by reducing methane emissions, cutting down on landfill and meeting energy targets.

If you would like some advice on how your business could best reap the benefits of anaerobic digestion, get in contact. We can help.