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15 June 2006 PR 06/68

Don’t dump it, digest it, say engineers at Loughborough University

An environmentally friendly alternative to landfill sites is being championed by experts at Loughborough University.

Engineering buffs at Loughborough want to see more anaerobic digestion plants set up across the UK, to tackle the growing problem of household waste. The UK is under orders from the European Commission to do something about the amounts of waste it buries in the ground.
Anaerobic digestion breaks down food waste to produce two useful by-products: methane, which can be used to generate electricity, and a fertiliser, full of plant-nurturing phosphates and nitrogen.

The University has already worked with Biffa Leicester and Pera at Melton Mowbray to help set up anaerobic digesters.

Now John Shelton-Smith, who specialises in Water Engineering at Loughborough, is working with the South East England Development Agency to look at creating a similar plant near Sevenoaks, in Kent.

Mr Shelton-Smith said: “There are lots of problems with landfill and with other waste disposal options, like incineration. The South East is in the front line.

“Anaerobic digestion is a sustainable way of treating organic waste. We get energy from it, by using methane to generate electricity, and the resultant product is a very good fertiliser.”
From October, supermarkets and other large organisations will no longer be able to dump out-of-date or waste liquid food, such as baked beans, into landfill. However, this waste could easily be converted into useful things by anaerobic digestion.

In a municipal waste anaerobic digester, waste is first processed using a special mill that breaks it up into small particles. These particles then pass through a series of rotating sieves before being put into the bioreactor. The process takes place within an enclosed environment, which means there are no emissions to worry the neighbours. They may even get cheap heating.


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Notes to editors

Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place it in the top flight of UK universities; the National Student Survey ranked Loughborough equal first among full-time students; and industry highlights the University in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 40% of Loughborough’s income is for research, and 60% for teaching. The University has been awarded five Queen's Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development; and for its outstanding work in evaluating and helping to develop social policy-related programmes.

In 2006 Loughborough celebrates the 40th anniversary of its University Charter, awarded on 19 April 1966 in recognition of the excellence achieved by Loughborough College of Advanced Technology and its predecessor Colleges. Loughborough University of Technology was renamed Loughborough University in 1996.

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