OSI’s Innovative Facility in England Makes the Commercial Case for Sustainability
September 12, 2019
Imagine if rather than taking your garbage to the dumpster, you used that waste to power everything in your house instead. This garbage would make the water in your shower hot. It would power the lights in your kitchen, the electricity in the living room and allow you to stream your favorite tv show. This garbage would ensure the refrigerator stays cold and, therefore, keeps food from spoiling. And after the energy generation process is completed, whatever waste residue was left could also contribute to the household as fertilizer, so your garden could grow better and you could have more vegetables and more food, and, as the cycle continues, you would turn any more waste into power again.
This kind of waste to energy process is called anaerobic digestion, and it is a promising renewable energy technology. In fact, OSI’s Pickstock Telford beef processing facility in England is using this type of power generation so it can run on 100 percent renewable energy. According to the European Biomass Industry Association, “Anaerobic digestion is the bacterial breakdown of organic materials in the absence of oxygen.” These organic materials come from animals and plants, such as animal manures, food scraps, fats, oils, greases, industrial organic residuals and sewage sludge (biosolids).
Utilizing anaerobic digestion in a beef processing facility works for a number of reasons. Importantly, much of the waste stream is organic waste generated by the livestock and processing activities which can feed the anaerobic digester and convert to biofuel. Additionally, byproducts from the digestion process can go back to the agricultural nutrient cycle through fertilizer. Pickstock Telford and OSI Food Solutions Europe saw an opportunity for sustainable design in the plant’s construction and decided to make using - and, more notably, producing - renewable energy a priority.
In 2016, when Pickstock Telford was completed, it contained a 499kWh combined heat and power engine at the heart of its waste treatment plant, and earned its place as the first beef processing facility in England with an Anaerobic Digester.
“We are dedicated to being one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable red meat manufacturing establishments in the UK,” said Managing Director Greg Pickstock. “To date, the anaerobic digester is our biggest project, and we believe it is a perfect example of our ongoing commitment to reduce our environmental impact and to be a sustainable business.”
The Anaerobic Digestion plant enables Pickstock Telford to minimize its environmental impact and add value to its processing activities via the production of renewable energy that then generates electricity, heat and a digestate fertilizer from the company’s waste streams. The facility does not have to rely on the grid to get power, because it produces most of its electricity on-site.This process of recycling and regenerating also enables the company to significantly reduce its CO2 emissions associated with offsite waste disposal or treatment as well as associated transport. The Pickstock Telford facility is one of the only self-sustaining plants in Europe, with every process needed to complete its operations under its 85,000 square foot roof. .
“Our customers can buy with confidence knowing that we have designed the plant with the latest technology enabling us to produce a high standard product, excellent working conditions for our staff and ensuring our environmental responsibilities are met reducing the usage of water, energy, packaging and minimizing waste,” said Pickstock.
Everything in the plant has been constructed with sustainability in mind, so different processes work together to produce whatever is needed to make the facility continue operations. The design also includes heat exchange systems to run off the refrigeration system and air compressors. To address water usage, they also have a full rainwater harvesting system. Animal byproducts are rendered and used for biofuel, and all manure waste is utilized by local farmers.
The sustainable design of the Pickstock Telford plant goes even further than its incredible ability to operate entirely off renewable energy. At this facility, the company also delivers best-in-class animal welfare, which is its main priority. Notable design features to accomplish these goals include a lairage that replicates the animal’s natural environment. All pens are well-ventilated, lit naturally and bedded with straw and shavings therefore creating a stress free environment. The facility also submits its CCTV footage to ongoing 3rd party audits to ensure that all animal handling meets OSI’s high expectations.
WHAT DO YOU CALL WASTE THAT ISN’T WASTED?
One sad part about life is that almost everything we do, no matter how basic, produces some sort of waste. This includes us as individuals as well as businesses and industries. As such, the idea that we can recycle this waste and turn it into energy means that we can greatly reduce our impact on the planet and we can become more self-sufficient than ever before.
To reach its sustainability goals, the Pickstock Telford facility sought out all potential benefits of its operations. Though Pickstock Telford is leading the way for Europe by creating value and an immediate purpose from their leftovers and waste, this story is not unique in the beef industry. Instead it provides another illustration of beef sustainability in action. Using biogas has no negative or direct impact on production, but production leaves plenty of leftover organic material. A biogas plant, especially one nearby, helps unlock and unleash this potential.
OTHER RENEWABLE ENERGY INITIATIVES AT OSI
As with all manufacturing, we rely heavily on energy throughout our operations. Because of this, we have prioritized renewable energy sources, energy monitoring and refrigeration equipment calibration and have installed alternative systems to reduce our negative impacts and pursue our commitment to continuous improvement.
In Poland, OSI Europe’s facility utilizes two well-known renewable energy sources: solar and wind. This, in conjunction with various other sustainable technologies employed at the plant, produces an environmental benefit by reducing the plant’s carbon footprint. Two other OSI buildings, the European regional office in Gersthofen, Germany and the manufacturing facility in Henan, China also hold LEED certifications. LEED certification is a marker in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and the globally recognized marker of environmentally sustainable construction.
The OSI facility in Toledo, Spain, was able to merge business needs with the desire to utilize renewable energy resources as well. This plant needed to expand to almost double its capacity, but the local energy company and city council were unable to provide OSI with the energy necessary to run the plant’s expansion. OSI Europe viewed this hurdle as an opportunity to build a cogeneration plant to produce its own renewable energy.
OSI AND THE COMMERCIAL CASE FOR SUSTAINABILITY
We at OSI have been converting our facilities in Europe to renewable energy electricity purchases as well. Through OSI Europe’s own initiative called Eco-Energy, we purchase energy from 100 percent renewable sources through Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).
Utilizing renewable energy and utilizing waste for other processes makes ethical, moral and business sense. The Pickstock Telford plant is operating off the grid and is turning waste into useful material. That means the plant is not using energy produced by more traditional methods. It also means the plant is reducing its waste, which obviously and importantly benefits the environment.
It also means that OSI does not have to purchase energy and is forced to be more efficient in its operations, while maintaining and improving its ability to make the highest quality products. This is good for the environment, the business and the industry as a whole.