One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s… Gasoline? British Delivery Trucks Run on Food Waste

Delivery Truck Runs on Food Waste
istock/thepalmer

Remember that awesome scene in “Back to the Future” when Doc Brown powers his DeLorean with food scraps? Well the future has become a reality, at least in the UK: British supermarket Waitrose’s new delivery trucks are powered by food waste.

This is just one in a long line of efforts made by the chain to cut back on food waste, from a decision to no longer send it to landfills in 2012 to the launch of the sale of ugly produce beginning in 2014.

“Waitrose has been spending the last seven to eight years looking at ways they can clean up their transport,” Philip Fjeld, CEO of CNG Fuels, which partnered with the supermarket on the switch, told Co.Exist about the new endeavor.

Waitrose is the first European company to use these new trucks, which run on compressed natural gas (CNG) made from food waste. This biogas emits about 70 percent less carbon dioxide than diesel – and is about 35 to 40 percent less expensive.

food waste
iStock/MementoImage

To produce it, biomethane gas is captured from decaying food and then goes onto the national gas grid. Waitrose trucks tap into this renewable resource at a CNG Fuel stop, allowing trucks a range of up to 500 miles – no refueling necessary.

“We will be able to make deliveries to our stores without having to refuel away from base,” Justin Laney of the John Lewis Partnership, which runs the Waitrose grocery chain, said in a statement.

To top it all off, the new trucks are quieter than diesel trucks, not to mention easier and quicker to refuel than their predecessors.

While the future looks bright, Waitrose will be operating this program on a small scale, with only ten trucks, at least for the time being. That said, according to Fjeld, there’s sufficient biomethane from food waste to fuel thousands of trucks, and with more than 1.4 billion tons of food wasted every year (15.7 million in the UK alone), maybe even more in years to come.

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Emily Monaco
Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.