Over the last three years the UK team have also developed international contacts linked to community biogas outside the EC in addition to our European contacts – particularly in the USA and Canada to explore novel ideas that could be applied to communities in the UK. We explored ‘Zooshare’ which is a community funded biogas co-operative project in Toronto linked to the Zoo, there are strong public educational links to Toronto zoo the animals, recycling manure and local organic food waste. This biogas scheme has taken several years to plan and develop and has been developed in partnership with a local waste company Miller Waste Systems. One of our team met Kealan Gell in Canada; he is a community biogas innovator who was involved in community biogas projects in London. Kealan produced a very informative MSc thesis comparing the economic viability and motivations comparing community biogas in ‘industrial economies’ such as the UK and ‘developing economies’ – where the environmental, economic, climatic (particularly in warmer climates) and livelihoods cases for community biogas may be stronger, where local utility services are lacking. Finally another influencer is the seemingly inexhaustible ‘hands on’ experience and enthusiasm of those involved in Solar CITIES associated with T. H. Culhane. There has been great interest in following their initiatives to utilise affordable Chinese biogas technology in temperate climatic conditions – such as in Pennsylvania, USA. Winter conditions are much colder there than in the UK – to see if the technology is practical and adaptable to UK community groups to see if this is an affordable option for smaller community groups. It is interesting to see that the Suderbyn Permaculture Eco village in Sweden has recently established one of these self-build biogas units constructed with the help from Solar CITIES. Observations of different approaches to community biogas are made with an open mind – but interest remains in affordable technical approaches that may make community biogas more appropriate as an affordable option for more wide spread adoption both in the UK and other parts of Europe.
In the UK there have been recent government initiative announced at the end of 2018 to explore reduction of food waste from manufacturers and retailers – but what of the future of food waste from households? Hopefully there will be funding for local authorities to allow separate curbside food waste collection – if money is available. Currently sludge regulations are under review in the UK which could potentially lead to more streamlined operations co-digesting food waste and sewage by some utility companies – if deemed suitable in the future. I am unsure as yet if there are any fresh initiatives linked to community energy schemes linked to locally collected food waste, which could be potentially co digested – for example on farm with slurry.
It is worth also acknowledging some ‘wise heads’ that we have been in touch with during this project in the UK. The BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) AD Network (http://www.angiestuff.com/ADNet/), which has been a tremendously helpful network based on years of experience and contacts with long-term practical experience. Of particular help has been the network of practitioners that have had ‘hands on’ experience of dealing with earlier initiatives linked to small and micro biogas and community engagement such as Rokiah Yaman, Angie Bywater, Cath Kibbler, Brian Mallalieu and Guy Blanche plus any others which we haven’t had a chance to mention.
Gell, Kealan. 2008. ‘Review of small scale, community biogas in the industrialized world’, Wageningen University, Netherlands: Community Composting Network