100% renewable gas? Really?

Is it not misleading to describe biogas generated from food waste and livestock farming as 100% renewable? We know that modern intensive farming is one of the largest fossil fuel consumers and greenhouse gas emitters by sector. We also know that much food waste is avoidable (up to 50% according to some estimates). To refer to it as a renewable source material implies the embedded fossil fuel component is entirely discountable because this waste is both unavoidable and valueless otherwise. However, numerous studies show that food waste is largely avoidable and with simple thermal treatment, suited to animal feed, which makes much better use of it than anaeribic digestion. Furthermore the rise of anaerobic digestion creates a false impression that food waste isn’t waste alongsidr a perverse economic disincentive to reduce it. Surely, the only truly renewable means of producing gas is from solar energy, by electrolysis, thermal dissociation or biofuels (corrected for non-renewable inputs and change if land use)?

It is certainly not renewable, & is misleading.

It should be described as carbon neutral, or something similar as there is nothing renewable about decomposing food & waste.

Furthermore, the idea that offsetting is greener energy or 100% carbon neutral is misleading, as it is doing nothing to reduce the damage gas heating contributes.

If bulbs wishes to. Invest mo ey into electric energy renewable project in developing countries, that is there choice, however, it should not be used as a PR stunt to try and suggest those projects mean bulb is 100% green gas when it’s not.

Carbon offsetting is always an interesting debate.

If you know something is putting 1kg of CO2 into the atmosphere, and you personally cause it to no longer be putting that CO2 into the atmosphere, then could your carbon footprint not be considered to be 1kg CO2 lower?
You were directly responsible for that reduction after all.

The issue really is whether that reduction would have happened anyway, and for how long can you consider the reduction to be relevant?
If you replace some inefficient wood or coal cooking stoves with clean burning alternatives, is that offsetting forever? or is it a valid offset for a month? a year?

Hi @tcbs2. As @mowcius has said, there’s always lots interesting discussion when it comes to green energy so thanks for sharing your thoughts and getting the discussion going.

@JustSsavvy Our gas is not 100% renewable, nor is it 100% green. 10% of our gas is renewable, and we offset the emissions from the 90% of our gas that isn’t. This makes our gas 100% carbon neutral overall. We’ll always use the term “100% carbon neutral” to describe our gas but if you’ve seen any other claims in our communications please let us know so we can make any changes.

There is not currently enough green gas to supply all our members with 100% green gas. But we’re working on that bit and in the meantime we’re offsetting the other 90%.

We know that offsetting is not the answer to solving climate change so we’ll continue work towards increasing the amount of green gas we supply and encourage our members to continue to decrease their energy consumption also.

We would like to see less waste produced across every industry and every area of society. We support ADBA’s advice that while meat is still part of the UK’s diet, and the meat industry is producing waste, then leaving animal by-products to decompose naturally is more environmentally harmful than turning them into something usable like green gas. Left untouched, animal waste emits methane, which is 21 times more harmful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide

We work with partners such as GENeco who turn food waste to green gas. They have a waste hierarchy ethos - “reduce, re-use, recycle”. They aim to reduce waste first and foremost but where they’re unable to completely eliminate waste, they turn waste into gas.

The government will now only offer subsidies to green gas plants that have a 50:50 split of waste:crop so our choice of feed-stock is partly limited by this.

We’d love to see more ways of producing green gas. Currently these are not available on a scale needed to supply the UK so we need to work with what we have. But the more people that switch to renewable suppliers the greater demand for generation there will be. In the meantime, we can offer 10% green gas and offset the other 90% to make our gas carbon neutral.

We work with partners such as GENeco who turn food waste to green gas. They have a waste hierarchy ethos - "reduce, re-use, recycle". They aim to reduce waste first and foremost but where they're unable to completely eliminate waste, they turn waste into gas.
I know they might say that but as their whole business is built on it existing (and presumably the larger the quantity the better), I doubt they're trying that hard to get people to reduce it.

@mowcius @JustSsavvy @tcbs2

We’ve been in contact with GENeco - our partners who turn food waste into gas. I’ll share what they said:

Firstly, the UK as a whole has a massive problem with food waste. The UK wastes over 10 million tonnes of food every year. Annually, that’s around 150kg per person.

1 million tonnes of food waste comes from the hospitality industry alone which is equivalent to 6 of the 8 billion meals served each year going into the bin.

Food waste can be separated into two types:

Avoidable - surplus production or purchasing, plate returns, gone off produce
Unavoidable - apple cores, vegetable peelings, bones, inedible manufacturing by-products

It’s estimated that if the UK was able to cut out all avoidable food waste would still leave four million tonnes of unavoidable waste to be dealt with.

By UK law, producers of food waste have to follow the waste hierarchy.

This means GENeco should only receive food waste that has already been considered for other human or animal consumption.

The reality is that many business in England (but not Scotland and Wales as they have mandatory laws) still don’t segregate food waste from general rubbish. The same situation is true of domestic waste. Therefore the majority of food waste remains preventable and is still not being recycled in any way.

The environmental impact of food being wasted and not recycled is huge - it makes up around 20% of total carbon emissions yet, over 4 million people in this country have had to use a food bank or equivalent in the last year (worth noting it’s a worldwide issue – if global food waste was a country it would be the third biggest carbon emitter behind China and USA).

The best case scenario for GENeco would be that everybody reduces their avoidable food waste to a minimum, and then recycles 100% of their unavoidable food waste, at a local facility. This goal is not incompatible with helping individual customers to reduce the volume of food waste, which we do through holding workshops at our plant for kitchen staff, providing monthly weight reports to allow clients to monitor the amount they are wasting, and asking them to work with food redistribution charities if we believe the food could be used elsewhere.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and what you think the UK could and should do to cut down on avoidable food waste and how we deal with unavoidable food waste.