By 2015, cooking waste from thousands of city restaurants and food companies will live out a second life as fuel for a power station. In a UK£200 million (US$300 million) deal announced by the renewable energy company 2OC and Thames Water, grease, oil, and fat will be channeled to help run a major sewage works and desalination plant. Beckton, in East London, is slated to become the world’s largest fat-fuelled power station. The station will be capable of producing 130 gigawatt hours of renewable electricity, enough energy to run 39,000 average-sized homes.
Fatbergs, as they are called, cause 40,000 blockages a year in London drains, costing UK£1 million (US$1.5 million) per month to clear. Rather than pouring fat down the drain or into landfills, this new project will collect thirty tons of waste per day, which is more than half the fuel the plant needs to operate daily. The rest will come from waste vegetable oil and animal fats. No virgin oils from fields or plantation-grown crops will be used.
The concept could prove a windfall for creating a more sustainable food system, ensuring that food waste is dealt with in an innovative and appropriate manner. As Chief Executive Officer of 2OC, Andrew Mercer, explains, “Our renewable power and heat from waste oils and fats is fully sustainable. When Thames doesn’t need our output, it will be made available to the grid meaning that power will be sourced, generated and used in London by Londoners.”