Food loss is a big problem. The BioSimplex system developed by SUEZ Recycling makes it easy for grocery stores to manage their food waste – and foodstuff that has to be discarded is put to use as biogas.

Much of the environmental impact from food production could be reduced with better resource management. Losses occur in every step of the value chain, from producers to consumers. Depending on the product, between 10 and 50 percent is discarded along the way. Most of the food waste is generated by households, but grocery stores are forced to throw away 125 000 tonnes of perishables every year.

The food never put to use is responsible for two million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually, roughly equivalent to three percent of the total emissions from Sweden. One of the country’s environmental objectives is to treat at least 40 percent of the food waste from households, grocery stores and restaurants biologically, so that energy and plant nutrients are utilized.

Sorting and processing food waste in the store

The grocery store puts the waste in a special container, where the biomass is automatically separated from packaging and processed into a slurry, later turned into biogas. Photo: SUEZ Recycling.

The waste management company SUEZ Recycling has developed a comprehensive system to make food waste recycling both cost-efficient and environment friendly. The Bio Simplex system handles food waste collected from for example grocery stores, and turns it into an organic mixture that can be used as a raw material for biogas production. The gas extracted from one ton of food waste can replace 78 liters of petrol, or 185 kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

The food waste is processed in a special container, which is put on site. The machine separates the food from the packaging; 80-90 percent is pressed into an organic slurry, and 10-20 percent is sorted out for incineration to recover the energy. The slurry is picked up and used for biogas production.

Moving up the waste hierarchy

With Bio Simplex, most of the food waste from a grocery store can be turned into biogas instead of being incinerated  – one step higher on the waste ladder. Since the material is processed into higher density, fewer transports are needed, and the stores save money. The waste management cost can be reduced up to 20 percent. Since the system handles both packaged and unpackaged foodstuffs, the process is fast and the system is easy to use.

A comprehensive, custom-made solution

The Bio Simplex container is placed at the store. When it is full, SUEZ receives an automatic notification to pick it up. It is all part of the work process Miljöcirkeln (Environmental Circle), which means that SUEZ and their staff takes responsibility for the entire waste management and all related logistics at the client facility. The customer can focus on their core business, and SUEZ can concentrate on adopting the solution to follow the workflow on site, optimizing transports and maximizing the recycling rate.

SUEZ also develops Simplex solutions for hazardous waste, and for waste containing sensitive information that requires confidentiality. All the three systems are comprehensive management systems, developed and optimized for their respective kind of waste, and can be further customized to fit in with the process at the deployment site.

90 percent is recycled

MixMat in Rosengård Centrum is one of the grocery stores that use the Bio Simplex system to manage their food waste in an environmentally sound way. Photo: SUEZ Recycling.

One of the grocery stores that has installed the system is MixMat Rosengård Centrum in Malmö, Sweden. The shop assistants put discarded products in the container intake, and the machine handles the rest.

”Food waste used to be incinerated. It did not make me feel good, since I have high environmental standards for my store. With the Bio Simplex, 90 percent of the food loss is recycled. I love it!”, says store owner Younis Al-jaff:
”We contribute 70-80 tonnes of feedstock to biogas production in one year. I put the bar high; my aim is to recycle all of the waste from the store.”

Karin Gunnarsson at Ica Maxi Stormarknad in Toftanäs is happy with the system, too:
”It feels good when perished fruit and dairy products get a new life as biogas. Our customers value the environmental advantage”.

The article was published in May 2018.