‘We’re turning food waste into green energy’ say hospital bosses

Scraping food waste into the bin will be the last many of us think about it. But green-thinking hospital staff have been working on a way to turn that waste into green energy.

Rather than throw away tonnes of food rubbish from patient wards or hospital cafes, the waste is being transformed through special machines at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals and coming out the other side as a compost-like residue which is then changed into green electricity.

The process only takes 24 hours when put through the special machines and is saving money as well as reducing carbon emissions too.

Scott Yearling, portering and waste manager, with the WasteMaster machine

Scott Yearling, portering and waste manager, said Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, which are run by East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, are committed to doing everything to reduce waste and offset carbon as part of their Green Plan.

“This is a really exciting project and means not only are we reducing the amount of food waste we create but we’re saving money and turning rubbish into something that’s reusable. There’s a cost to disposing of hospital waste, and previously we had to have several collections, but we only need one collection a week with this system so it’s saving money and carbon emissions too.” Scott said. “With food waste we know it generates harmful greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide, so to be able to reduce this in the process is a real step forward.”

Hospital cook serving food

Water use has also been reduced, as food was previously macerated requiring liquid in the process, but the new WasteMaster system doesn’t need water.

Initially the food waste is broken down at the hospital, then taken to nearby sites to be transformed using activated oxygen which breaks down the cellular structure of the food and creates a coffee-grain-like substance or residue. No heat, enzymes or water are used.

The coffee-grain-residue created by the WasteMaster machine

The coffee-grain-residue created by the WasteMaster

In the past year ESNEFT has converted approximately 115,000 kg (115 tonnes) of food waste into energy. This is a greenhouse gas reduction of 184.33 tonnes compared to landfill.

Repurposing the hospitals’ food waste also means it prevents it being harmful to the environment at landfill or in the drains and causing ‘fatbergs’.

The WasteMaster system is run by Green Eco Technologies who have supported the Trust in rolling it out across the two hospitals.

The WasteMaster machine

The WasteMaster machine

Katie Young, UK Commercial Director at Green Eco Technologies said: “As the WasteMaster does not use high heat, enzymes or water – the residue keeps the original food waste calorific, nutrient and protein values, but in a much more concentrated format.

“The benefit of this is that the calorific value makes the residue perfect for using at a local anaerobic digestion plant – which they then convert to create energy. So, the food waste can be repurposed into something useful, which it wouldn’t be if flushed (macerated) into the drain or sent to landfill.

“We’re proud to collaborate and support ESNEFT in their carbon footprint improvement on the journey to net zero. The Trust has demonstrated leadership and commitment in their vision for sustainable healthcare with the reduction of emissions from food waste.”

Katie added that nothing is wasted and even the remaining sludge-like material left over called ‘digestate’ is used by farmers as fertiliser.

 

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