Gas and cash - all from trash

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LEFT-OVER food scraps from every family in Milton Keynes are to be turned into free gas power in a pioneering council ‘gas from trash’ scheme.

It means at least 2,000 city homes and businesses will, by the end of the year, receive their gas power literally from the contents of other people’s rubbish bins.

Fuelled by its desire to save the environment, Milton Keynes Council will be the first local authority in the UK to revolutionise its refuse collection.

And far from costing money, it will generate cash in a time of crippling budget cuts.

Food waste and garden clippings from green bins put out by all 101,000 city households will be fed into a new anaerobic digester next to Cotton Valley sewage plant.

Working as a giant compost bin, air is sucked out and the waste matter, which includes cooked and raw meats, is heated to kill bacteria.

As natural decomposition occurs, methane gas is emitted and collected.

This is fed into the regional network run by gas companies, who pay for the non-fossil fuel before piping it to local premises.

What remains in the digester is quality soil conditioner, which will be sold for gardens .

The anaerobic system, known as AD, has been hailed as a “perfect loop” by council environment boss Andy Hudson

“It will earn us money and produce green energy, so it turns refuse into an asset both financially and environmentally,” he said.

To allay fears of nearby residents he promised: “There will be no smell because the process will take place in a sealed room within a building with negative pressure. And the noise will be negligible.”

The council is already in the final stages of employing private contractors, Kempston-based Renewable Power Systems, to build and run the AD . It should be ready to start operation by November.

Currently city green bin refuse is driven all the way to St Ives in Cambridgeshire where it is fermented for compost.

The pink sacks containing cardboard, paper and recyclable plastics go to the recycling plant at Old Wolverton. This scheme will remain unchanged, said Mr Hudson.

“Milton Keynes has a long history of leading the way with recycling schemes. We were the first borough to introduce kerbside collections in 1992 and the first to open a purpose-built recycling facility in 1993.

“The anaerobic digester scheme is something to be proud of. It closes the loop.”