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The Ugly Truth About Ignoring the Benefits of a Circular Economy

Ignoring the Benefits of a Circular Economy in an attempt to sign a trade deal with the US, while ditching UK alignment with the EU, would have ugly outcomes for future generations.  The circular economy is the only hope for future generations for whom the current generation must return to using no more than the resources of one planet.

Click image to enlarge!

Anaerobic digestion (AD) is at the heart of any circular economy, uniquely providing as it does, the vital function of “organic material recycling with the output of energy”, plus recycling “natural fertiliser.

No other technology, no matter how high-tech and innovative provides the prospect of doing this right now.

Talk of the “hydrogen economy”, “electric vehicles” and even the “reducing cost of commercial space exploration” as the technology to save us is unrealistic. Sustainable organic waste management is essential.

The idea that we will one day, “transport boundless mineral and water resources to the earth”, misses the point about managing waste, completely.

Illustration shows solar panels and their part in Renewable Energy Trends Of 2019.In a similar way, some also say, why develop biogas plants because batteries and solar panels are dropping in price?

The answer is that none of these technologies has anything to do with solving the challenge of recycling organic waste sustainably.

We are not knocking the benefits of hydrogen power, electric vehicles, or solar panels etc. They are needed as well. But, they should not ever be seen as alternatives to anaerobic digestion.

Ignore AD and you ignore the fundamental core principles of any circular economy. Lose the current momentum of promises made by the previous government, and it will be too late to avoid hugely damaging climate change.

The ugly truth is that it is quite possible that the new UK government will be hell-bent on wooing the US for a trade deal, and will cease supporting moves toward a “UK circular economy.

Even when purely thinking at a commercial level, that would be a huge missed opportunity, not only for the AD industry, but also for the progress of the circular economy in Europe and a the estimated £1trn global market loss for the whole UK waste management industry.

That’s the view of this blog.

A similar view is held by ADBA who also say:

We firmly believe that the UK will NOT meet its Net Zero obligations without strong support for our sector.”

Read the ADBA view in their Press Release below:

ADBA Press Release:


Anaerobic digestion trade association urges UK Government to keep the momentum on building a sustainable, circular economy

Anaerobic digestion (AD) can reduce UK GHG emissions by 5% and help the UK meet its net-zero obligations and Paris Agreement commitments.

  • The global AD and biogas industry is only treating 2% of the organic wastes available to produce biogas for power, heat and transport, and bio-fertilisers for farming. The potential for growth is huge.
  • Government must urgently put policies in place to support this growth and ensure that:
      • we do as much as we can to mitigate the climate crisis,
      • we develop a UK supply chain to export to the world,
      • we create tens of thousands of new green jobs around the UK.

The UK Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) congratulates the new members of the UK Government on their appointments.

Only a brief reference was made in the new Prime Minister’s speech to the environment, and the climate crisis that we face, and the urgency of taking action to meet the UK’s Paris Agreement commitments and achieve net-zero emissions targets by 2050.

We firmly believe that the UK will NOT meet its Net Zero obligations without strong support for our sector (it can reduce emissions in the UK by 5%), which, in addition to addressing climate change, also offers great opportunities to boost the UK economy, from exports to farming resilience post-Brexit and green jobs, and to deliver on the Clean Growth and Resource and Waste Strategies.

Report on the Potential of BiogasThe World Biogas Association, of which ADBA is a founder member, has just published its Global Potential of Biogas report, highlighting the role that anaerobic digestion (AD) and biogas can play in decarbonising multiple sectors (energy, agriculture, transport, urban living, water) and developing a sustainable circular economy worldwide.

The AD technology, which treats organic wastes from various sources to produce biogas for electricity, heat, fuel for transport, as well as carbon-free digestate to fertilise the land, is mature and able to treat most biodegradable materials.

Developed to its full potential, the biogas industry could reduce global GHG emissions by 10-13%, and in hard to reach sectors such as agriculture, heat and transport. However, it only currently treats 2% of the organic wastes available around the world to generate green gas, power, transport fuel and bio-fertilisers.

There are therefore 98% of biodegradable materials available globally (food waste, waste from farming and from sewage systems) that remain untapped. The potential for the sector to grow as an instrument not only for climate change mitigation, but also to develop a sustainable circular economy that creates many green jobs, secures energy and agricultural security and boosts export opportunities, is therefore enormous.

ADBA logo.ADBA has been working with the UK Government for many years advising on the policies needed to support the deployment of AD and biogas in the UK and we have been encouraged by the progress made. However, we must not lose the momentum at such a critical time for the environment and the economy. Building on current achievements and policy priorities, we are therefore calling for the UK Government to ensure that:

  • an ongoing funding system for AD is established,
  • there is continued support for the rollout of food waste collections,
  • the Agriculture Bill is progressed taking account ADBA’s recommendations,
  • there is investment in research and innovation to reduce the industry’s dependence on subsidies and ensure it is best able to take advantage of the estimated £1trn global market.

Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of ADBA, said:

In a keynote speech prior to the launch of the WBA report, Niclas Svenningsen, of the UNFCCC Secretariat (UN Climate Change) highlighted the multiple wins that the AD and biogas industry offers to society, and called for biogas to be at the table when the future policies of governments are designed.

The UK AD industry has grown by more than 350% over the last ten years and the UK has established itself as a world leader in biogas, with UK companies already exporting biogas-related expertise and equipment. Given its world leading expertise, the UK AD industry has a real opportunity to be at the heart of the growing global biogas industry, support the drive to address climate change and create a sustainable circular economy for now and generations to come. We mustn’t miss this opportunity.”

– ADBA Press Release ENDS –


AD Technology Is Not Perfect!

Anaerobic digestion as currently practiced has disadvantages in some areas, and needs further innovation for greater efficiency optimization.

However, unless and until “hard to achieve technologies” such as gasification become viable to replace it for solid waste management, it’s the only show in town to solve many aspects of organic waste management.

In time, society may find other ways to carry-out most, or all, of the waste management functions that AD can achieve. But, that would only be possible if abundant renewable energy was available at a low cost.

The Need to Act Now on Organic Waste – Waiting for the Perfect Replacement Technology for AD is Not Possible

Abundant renewable energy for alternatives to energy-creating AD, may become available at a low cost at some time in the future, but it’s not available now and renewable energy supplies are needed for other purposes.


Comments are especially welcome to this article! We’d be the first to admit that ours is only one opinion among many on these issues!

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