Food, waste food and biofuels

Are biofuels going to be a drain on world food resources? Not necessarily was the message at the All Party Parliamentary Renewable Transport Fuels Group meeting held in London yesterday.One of the arguments put forward is that there is a considerable amount of waste food. This seems to be supported by EnCycle, a commercial company, which aims to exploit this seam of untapped energy by converting the 17m tonnes/year produced in the UK, about 30% comes from the food processing industry. EnCycle aims to turn some of this waste food into methane, and other products. A report by the BBC says that about a third of the food grown in the UK goes to waste.
There is a real opportunity for biofuels from food waste in a developed country like the UK where we have pretty efficient ways of getting food from the farm to the plate, but is a real opportunity in places like India, which wastes Rupee 580 bn ($/Euro) year because of poor post harvest facilities such as cold chains. If some of that waste could be converted into biofuels, it could go a long way to improving the lot of the rural poor.

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3 Responses to Food, waste food and biofuels

  1. Mark C R UK 11 July, 2007 at 1:04 pm #

    I found this absolutely fascinating Simon.
    Given all the recent press (negative) commentary emanating from quarters of the petrochemical establishments (governments i.e. OPEC), and now the food industry…
    See today’s BBC article:
    Italians facing pasta price rise 10/7/2007
    - emanating from the “Italian pasta manufacturers association”
    Again, market issue. Supply and demand…
    I use the analogy of Lubricants in the petrochemical industry. Based on alkali earth metal Stearates. Due to the price of these metals increasing (massive construction in China/India and electronics industry use), the multinationals are now looking at alternatives they already have the IP for from the 90′s, but didn’t utilise then.

    In the case of biofuels the food industry is (overly) critical since they now face competition for feedstocks.
    - in the pasta case I question this, since what % of Wheat is used in biofuels production really?!?
    - is this not (as with the recent flooding in the UK) local weather phenomena having an impact on the national crop yields that’s caused this?

    People should look into this in further detail…. Like Nestle’s PR yesterday, is this originating from the strain of competition from an industry unused to ANY competition?

    You meeting yesterday however I think struck the right note. Both can be complementay to each other given clever application of the technologies.

    I’m glad reading this post Westminster is getting a balanced viewpoint!!

  2. Biofuelsimon 12 July, 2007 at 11:45 am #

    I have to admit to a level of scepticism on the food issue. It will be easiser to use crops which all grow together in one place,are pretty homongeneous and are sold through well established channels, than rounding up food waste and turning that into biofuels. But that doesn’t mean to say we shouldn’t try. I was impressed by the passion that this provoked at the meeting.

  3. jean 7 July, 2008 at 1:50 pm #

    Dear Simon Robinson,
    I am contacting you from Sky News, we are doing a discussion today about Gordon Brown’s comments about wasting food.

    We would like to speak to you about his comments and what they think needs to be done about food waste. The interview will be live today at 7.30pm, we have two studios, on in Westminster and the other in Osterley.

    I look forward to hearing from you soon,

    Sky News Producer
    0207 585 4568

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