Britain’s External Stomachs

Ministers in Britain are reportedly considering a remarkable scheme: Building anaerobic digesters in every town to turn food waste into electricity and fertilizer. (For the nitty-gritty on anaerobic digesters, see this U.S. Energy Department document.) The digesters would solve the problem of finding new landfill sites, and because they use food waste instead of manure, they won’t, well, stink. As the shockingly sensible environment minister says, “Why would we go on throwing food waste into holes in the ground when we could generate our own electricity and end up with a product that can be returned to the soil?”

In other anaerobic digestion news, there’s an interesting story in the Toronto Star this week on Canada’s failure to capitalize on animal waste for electricity. And it isn’t just Canada: The article cites a University of Texas–Austin study that found that manure could supply 3 percent of U.S. electricity needs. Meanwhile, Germany’s already built nearly 4,000 digesters, enough to power around 400,000 homes. A side benefit: Anaerobic digestion kills E. coli. Not that we’d care about that, of course.

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