Customers will increasingly be asking of their grocery shops, ‘has this been grown with environmentally friendly fertiliser?’
Not perhaps the question supermarkets currently expect, but there is growing concern over whether the food we eat is sustainable if it is grown using commercial fertilisers.
On top of the sustainability question, the world is facing a nightmare scenario: as energy prices rise we will see increases in the cost of fertiliser and ultimately the food we eat.
Before anyone panics, we do have a solution. We throw away vast amounts of food and other organic waste every day. Not to mention the rest of the food that we dispose of through a less direct route, to the sewage plant.
All of this is rich in nutrients, much like artificial fertiliser. Putting nutrients from this waste - and garden waste - back on the land is essential, and we can only really do this through anaerobic digestion (AD) and composting.
AD has the added value of not only converting organic waste into useful biofertiliser, but also producing biogas, which can be burned to create electricity and heat or, upgraded to biomethane, injected into the gas grid or used as fuel. The problem is that despite the coalition’s stated commitment to anaerobic digestion, we still only have 74 non-water industry plants built and operating. We need to build plants at a much faster rate.
There is also an increasing demand to understand the carbon value of supermarket operations. The business case for AD in the grocery supply and distribution marketplace is clear - and will be a key topic at UK AD & Biogas 2012,a two-day event dedicated to AD (4-5 July at the NEC). The carbon reduction commitment will drive companies to reduce their emissions and offset as much as possible to reduce their carbon tax liability.
Future generations will consider our disposal of food into landfill as at best short-sighted and at worst criminal.
To ensure they have enough food, we need a mature AD industry. Food grown with biofertiliser could be the new organics section in the supermarket.