Turning Fruit Residue into Electricity

Gerber Juice, in Bridgwater, Somerset, have recently partnered with local firm Cannington Cold Stores – who provide storage for their chilled and frozen raw materials – to install an on-site anaerobic digestion plant to dispose of their waste fruit and turn it into clean energy.

Producing over 650 million litres of juice per year – for brands such as Ocean Spray, Sunpride and Growers Direct – Gerber Juice inevitably accrue a sizable amount of production waste. So to make the business more environmentally and economically sustainable, an anaerobic digester was the natural choice. The process uses micro-organisms to break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. From this, bio-gas is created and a combined heat and power unit converts it into electricity.

The pioneering element in the system, developed by the two companies, was to combine the reject juice and production leftovers with maize silage – grown on Cannington’s 400 acre arable farm.

As well as running their cold storage facilities, the rural power station exports a significant amount of electricity to the grid. This provides about 200 homes in the area with clean power, as well as vital revenue for the partnership. Meanwhile a byproduct of the process – an organic fertiliser – is being made available for use on local farms. The scheme reduces waste disposal costs by £150,000 per year, say Gerber, and avoids around 152,000 journey miles to landfill.

In recognition of the juice company’s achievements to reduce their footprint, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), selected them as winners in the environmental improvement category at their Awards for Excellence 2010. The award was presented by HRH The Princess Royal, in London.

Janet Eady, CILT spokesperson, said: “Gerber Juice and partnership supplier Cannington Cold Stores have created an impressive, highly sustainable solution that benefits both companies as well as the environment. It is a thoroughly sustainable environmental partnership with a commercial logic that serves as an example for similar schemes nationwide.”

This was the second award in as many weeks for Gerber Juice, who also took top place in the Carbon Reduction Category at the 2010 Somerset Business Awards.