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Our zero to landfill commitment

Written by NCGM
September 01, 2021

Covent Garden Market Authority (CGMA) is committed to reducing its impact on the environment by continuing to improve the performance of its operations and by actively encouraging all businesses based at New Covent Garden Market to do the same.

This is an ongoing commitment, of course, and one of the most advanced of the various projects to this end is that the market operates a zero waste to landfill policy.

All food waste that is unfit for human consumption goes to anaerobic digestion (AD).

CGMA’s Operations Manager Colin Corderoy said: “We work with recycling service DJB and through them, all of the organic food waste generated by the market’s tenants is collected on a daily basis by a Surrey-based company called Bio Collectors, which operates one of the only AD sites in the UK certified by the British Gas Council to provide biogas directly into the National Grid.”

In the last year, 200 tonnes of wrapped and unwrapped organic food waste was sent each month was sent to the AD plant on one of nine Bio Collectors vehicles that run on bio-gas generated from the anaerobic digestion process, explained Colin. “Bio Collectors has also invested in a self-contained compressed natural gas (CNG) refuelling station and a rolling replacement scheme, which will eventually see all food waste collections being fuelled by the energy from the food waste being collected,” he added.

“The existing fleet of CNG-fuelled collection vehicles has driven 157,405 miles in the last 12 reported months. This represents 36% of the total vehicle miles Bio Collectors drives per annum. Displacing 36% of vehicle miles fuelled by diesel is equivalent to avoiding a further 242 tonnes of CO₂ emissions per annum. This figure will continue to increase as the fleet of vehicles continues to be upgraded to CNG vehicles.”

The process also produces a nutrient-rich fertiliser from food waste, called digestate, which is used in farming as a chemical free fertiliser. Food that is fit for human consumption is collected from the market by either City Harvest or Waste Not Want Not, a local charity. The market’s tenants are really proud to support both of these organisations, which redistribute food to the most vulnerable in society either in the form of meals or food boxes.

“Of the market’s non-food waste, in the last year, around 100 tonnes a month of co-mingled cardboard waste was baled up and sent to a mill, while 80 tonnes of pallets were collected each month and mostly placed into a pallet pool for tenants to re-use,” Colin said. "Damaged pallets are chipped and sent for use as chicken bedding, amongst other things. Another 10 tonnes of plastic – bread crates, clear plastic, shrink wrap etc… is sent for recycling every month, as is roughly five tonnes of waste office paper is also collected and recycled. From the market’s cafes, around 2,000 litres a year of cooking oil is also collected and given to a biofuel producer.

“In all, around 52% of all of the market’s waste is recycled – the residual waste (around 400 tonnes a month) is compacted and taken away by a waste operator, which uses advanced technology to pick out another 30% or so of that waste for recycling and the rest is incinerated, creating more energy,” he said.

In the Flower Market, we are exploring methods to ‘de-package’ waste and send organic waste to compost. Plastic or paper wrapping is recycled. If there are surplus flowers in reasonable condition, which is rare because most are sold, they are given to a market-based charity called Floral Angels.

Floral Angels is run by a band of volunteers who create posies or jam-jar arrangements to distribute to local hospices, schools and other organisations. They also re-use flowers from one-off events such as weddings or corporate parties. CGMA ordinarily provides a 24-hour facility at the Flower Market for florists to return used flowers to Floral Angels, though that has been temporarily suspended due to COVID-19.

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