BY: LAURA ROJAS
Founded in 1869, Sainsbury’s in the UK is a large-scale grocery store chain that has vowed to do away with conventional business practices in exchange for more sustainable ideas.
In 2011, their Hyde store in Kent became the first smart-grid supermarket in the world. Now, their Cannock store in the West Midlands is the first to be powered completely by food waste through the practice of anaerobic digestion. They’ve quickly become the largest users of this renewable energy form in the UK, generating enough to power almost 250,000 homes.
They’ve quickly become the largest users of this renewable energy form in the UK, generating enough to power almost 250,000 homes.
Sainsbury’s commitment to community and the environment extends back many years and is embedded into every aspect of their business model. Neil Sachdev, Sainsbury’s property director stated that two-thirds of the UK’s stand-by power comes from high-carbon-emitting non-renewable sources, and that’s a problem. Their implementation of the Smart Grid and anaerobic digestion paves the way for renewable energy practices “rather than waiting for climate change legislation to bring about change,” because we all know that this might take longer than the time we actually have.
Their business model is admirable, and with a strict no-landfill-waste policy Sainsbury’s is known to donate surplus food to charity partners and food banks, or process it into animal feed. Wasted bananas from one of their locations are sent over to the local safari park to feed the monkeys. All waste is either recycled or reused, with nothing going to waste in vain.
Sainsbury’s is known to donate surplus food to charity partners and food banks, or process it into animal feed. Wasted bananas from one of their locations are sent over to the local safari park to feed the monkeys
In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Paul Crewe, head of sustainability at Sainsbury’s stated that “we send absolutely no waste to landfill and are always looking for new ways to reuse and recycle. So we’re delighted to be the first business ever to make use of this linkup technology, allowing our Cannock store to be powered entirely by our food waste.”
The anaerobic process works through a series of intricate biological processes where, when no oxygen is present, biodegradable material is broken up by microorganisms. Bio-methane gas is the end product and is subsequently converted into a renewable source of energy capable of being used as transportation fuel or natural gas. The generated electricity is then directly supplied to Sainsbury’s through the 1.5km long cable that they built.
This anaerobic process is successful with all sorts of input variations: livestock manure, wastewater solids, food waste, and other forms of organic waste. Every part of the process, even the remaining solids, has a purpose—whether it be providing compost, acting as bedding for cattle, or serving as a fertilizer, making this an excellent source of sustainable energy.
Sainsbury’s project cost an estimated £280,000, but already they’ve noticed savings of £140,000 per year in reduced energy costs.