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Students power the nation by turning food waste into energy

By appointing the UK’s largest food waste recycler, PDM Group, The University of Surrey is one of the first universities to find a more sustainable solution for its food waste. Surrey is the latest to partner with a dedicated food waste recycler to collect all off-cuts from food preparation, plate scrapings and unsold food and turn the redundant material into renewable energy.

Catering staff at the University’s six outlets, which include bars, canteens and catered halls of residence, now dispose of all food waste in dedicated bins, which are then collected by PDM on a weekly basis. The bins are located in the kitchen areas making recycling an easy process for kitchen staff to implement, with the waste collected as it arises. In the five months the scheme has been in place, the university has recycled more than seven tonnes of food waste into 1.8 mega watts of renewable energy – almost enough to power 4,000 homes for an hour.

This contract offers many benefits to the university, according to Alan Donnachie, deputy director of estates and facilities management. He commented: "In today’s environment, it just isn’t necessary to be putting waste into landfill when there are so many other options available. Working with PDM means that not only are we diverting food waste from landfill, but we’re also helping to generate renewable energy. On a practical level, it’s been an easy system to implement and has enabled us to also reduce the frequency of our other waste collections, as it’s the food waste that causes odour issues, making this option cost neutral for the university."

PDM takes the food waste to one of its biomass-to-energy plants in the UK. At the plant, PDM ‘depacks’ any packaged food, combines it with the waste collected from retailers, hotels, restaurants and businesses and generates renewable energy which is sold to the national grid. As a company, PDM handles more than one million tonnes of food waste from every stage of the food chain and generates enough energy to power 50,000 homes each year.

The company will also support The University of Surrey in the next stage of its recycling development to encourage students in self-catering halls of residence to recycle their food waste too.

Philip Simpson, commercial director at PDM Group, commented: "The last couple of years have seen a real change in how organisations approach their waste and there has been a definitive shift to viewing waste as a resource rather than rubbish. We’re delighted to be working with The University of Surrey and supporting them in their goal to reduce their environmental impact. Surrey is a great example of how such recycling processes can be implemented where waste is generated a several different locations."

PDM is the largest food waste recycler in the UK offering nationwide and integrated recycling solutions for the whole food chain. The company is helping some of the UK’s leading companies find sustainable solutions for food waste, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, The Savoy Hotel, Morrisons, the Environment Agency and E-on.

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