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Pupils from St Michael's C of E Primary School in the anerobic digestion plant control room

32 pupils from a County Durham primary school became official ‘Waste Warriors’ when they visited the north east’s only commercial food waste anaerobic digestion facility to see how leftover food is processed into biogas.

The eco team from St Michael’s C of E Primary School has been taking part in a food waste campaign created by Emerald Biogas to help schools understand the growing impact of disposing of unwanted food.

Following a visit by the renewable energy company to the school earlier in March, where the pupils learned about the anaerobic digestion process, the pupils were given workbooks with activities such as designing a team logo, completing an animation of the anaerobic digestion process and recording the food miles for the school’s lunch, to develop their creative design, problem solving and mathematics skills.

As part of the Waste Warriors campaign, they have also been recycling their own food waste produced at school in recycling bins to be processed at the plant. This week 32 Year Three and Four pupils from St Michael’s C of E Primary School took a tour of the plant to see how their leftover food is digested and turned into green energy.

Operations Manager Paul Scott gave a lively tour, with the pupils captivated by all the processes, sights and sounds, including the depackaging machine, the large tanks where the bacteria feed on the food waste and the post-digestion tank where the biogas is produced and turned into heat, power and fertiliser.

St Michael’s C of E Primary School Year 3 pupil, Tom, said: “I really enjoyed my trip to Emerald Biogas, I was amazed that left over food can be used to produce energy to power homes!”

Year 4 St Michael’s C of E Primary School pupil, William, said: “It was exciting to see the different processes at Emerald Biogas, it is really impressive that all of the waste is reused! This is excellent for the environment.”

James Paley, Year Three class teacher at St Michael’s RC Primary School, said: “The children really enjoyed their visit to Emerald Biogas. They learned about the different processes involved in food waste anaerobic digestion. The children know that recycling is vitally important in protecting the environment.”

Esther Brown, Commercial Manager at Emerald Biogas, said: “The pupils were fascinated by the journey that the food waste takes, from their own collections and the other types of food waste coming into site as well as the bacteria that create the gas and the fertiliser that comes out at the end.

“We see educating the next generation about how yesterday’s leftovers can become tomorrow’s green energy as being a priority and through this initiative we are committed to helping the local community change the way it deals with leftover food. We want to make people stop and think by putting food waste firmly under the spotlight. With Winston the Waste Warrior leading the campaign, we have a fun way of engaging with the younger generation to help create a new attitude to food waste.”

Together schools across the UK throw away 80,000 tonnes of food waste, with over 16 kilograms thrown away on average in a primary school every day.

The youngsters also have the chance to win a £250 voucher for their school by designing a series of colourful and creative posters that get the food waste message across, as part of a wider north east schools competition. The winning school will be able to purchase an environmentally friendly resource, which can be used for the school’s green initiatives.

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