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Students waste no time in learning about biogas

Over 60 pupils from two County Durham primary schools became official ‘Waste Warriors’ when they visited the north east’s only commercial food waste anaerobic digestion facility to see how leftover food is processed into biogas.

The eco teams from Barnard Castle Preparatory School and Coxhoe Primary School have been taking part in a food waste campaign created by Emerald Biogas to help schools understand the growing impact of disposing of unwanted food.

Following a visit by the renewable energy company to the schools earlier in March, where the pupils learned about the anaerobic digestion process, the pupils were given workbooks with activities such as designing a team logo, completing an animation of the anaerobic digestion process and recording the food miles for school’s lunch, to develop their creative design, problem solving and mathematics skills.

As part of the Waste Warrior campaign, they have also been recycling their own food waste produced at school in recycling bins to be processed at the plant. This week 36 Year Four pupils from Barnard Castle Prep School and 25 Year Four and Five pupils from Coxhoe Primary School took a tour of the plant to see how their leftover food is digested and turned into green energy.

Despite the cold winds, through a lively tour given by Operations Manager, Paul Scott, the pupils were captivated by all the processes, sights and sounds, including the depackaging machine, the large tanks where the bacteria feed on the food waste and the post-digestion tank where the biogas is produced and turned into heat, power and fertiliser.

Barnard Castle Preparatory School Year 4 pupil, Lois said: “It was fascinatingto find out about how food waste is recycled and turned into energy andinto fertiliser.

Also from Year 4, Barnard Castle Preparatory School pupil, Daisy said: “It was interesting finding out that you could turn waste into energy.

Ben Wicling, Year 4 class teacher at Barnard Castle Preparatory School, said:“An excellent trip, allowing the children to see first-hand the process of converting food waste into electricity. It brought recycling to life.
Amber, a pupil from Coxhoe Primary School said: “It’s been fun to recycle our waste and help the environment.

Fellow pupil Ben said: “It’s good to see where all the waste goes and what happens next.

Esther Brown, Commercial Manager at Emerald Biogas, said: “The pupils were fascinated by the journey that the food waste takes, from their own collections and the other types of food waste coming into site as well as the bugs that create the gas and the fertiliser that comes out at the end.

We see educating the next generation about how yesterday’s leftovers can become tomorrow’s green energy as being a priority and through this initiative we are committed to helping the local community change the way it deals with leftover food. We want to make people stop and think by putting food waste firmly under the spotlight. With Winston the Waste Warrior leading the campaign, we have a fun way of engaging with the younger generation to help create a new attitude to food waste.

Together schools across the UK throw away 80,000 tonnes of food waste, with over 16 kilograms thrown away on average in a primary school every day.

The youngsters also have the chance to win a £250 voucher for their school by designing a series of colourful and creative posters that get the food waste message across, as part of a wider north east schools competition. The winning school will be able to purchase an environmentally friendly resource, which can be used for the school’s green initiatives.

Formed in 2009, Emerald Biogas is owned by three partners with a wealth of experience in agriculture and recycling. Antony and Adam Warren are the owners of long established food and animal by-products recycling business, John Warren ABP. Together with Ian Bainbridge’s diverse farming, land and resource management Agricore, they will provide the region with a beneficial sustainable resource.

John Warren ABP manages the collection for Emerald Biogas. With over three generations of waste management experience and family owned, the company offers a food disposal service at Hamsterley and has progressed into the next generation of food processing.

The funding for the project was made available through the Rural Development Programme for England, which is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union.