Waste neutral project in Cornwall

Wednesday, 03 August, 2005

The huge domes housing different climatic environments are an instantly recognisable feature of the Eden Project in Cornwall. But perhaps less well known is the research into sustainable development that is a cornerstone of the Eden Project.

One of the key environmental projects currently under way is being sponsored by the BOC Foundation and it features a UK 'first'. The waste neutral framework program will investigate the viability of a waste disposal process suitable for a wide range of bodies producing food waste, such as food manufacturers and growers who have limited site space and manpower available to deal with waste food on site.

There is a very real need to research this issue as food waste is known to contribute much of the emission and leachate problems arising from landfill sites. In 2000, for example, it was estimated that approximately 660,000 tonnes of methane from UK landfills were released, accounting for 27% of the total UK methane emission.

The process under investigation at Eden involves aerobic digestion using what is known as in-vessel composting. Says waste neutral program manager Alison Vaughan: "We're trialling an all-natural process that is contained within a vessel and it's this containment that has the potential for use by public institutions such as hospitals and prisons, or commercial enterprises including supermarkets, airports and food producers where space is an issue."

Eden's waste output varies seasonally, but averages at around 1 tonne of compostable waste per day. This first 'composter' arrived at Eden in April this year. Vaughan continues: "We're the first organisation in the UK to use the Swedish-built Neter 30 composter and when it becomes fully operational it will mean Eden will deal with 65% of its own waste."

This means that Eden could achieve UK government targets for reducing the amount of biodegradable waste sent to landfill by 75% of 1995 levels by the year 2010 at one stroke.

The potential to replicate this in-vessel approach to food waste disposal could, if its viability is proved at Eden, make an important contribution to the reduction of pollutant emissions which occur in both landfill sites and traditional composting.

There now follows a 1-year period of monitoring. Thayre explains: "We will be testing the output to demonstrate that the material produced can meet the DEFRA-approved standards for the treatment of catering waste via in-vessel composting. "The project will also be monitored and assessed in terms of operational efficiency, economic justification, and usability of the compost output.

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