Food waste really can power cars like in the 1980s’ Back to the Future movies

Jon Marshall, Zero Waste Scotland's recycling sector manager, and chief executive Iain Gulland want recycled food waste to be used to power vehicles, just like the DeLorean car in the movie Back to the Future. (Photo: Mark F Gibson)
Jon Marshall, Zero Waste Scotland's recycling sector manager, and chief executive Iain Gulland want recycled food waste to be used to power vehicles, just like the DeLorean car in the movie Back to the Future. (Photo: Mark F Gibson)

Just as Marty McFly and the Doc discovered in Back to the Future, our food waste can be transformed into a sustainable fuel to power future energy needs.

So environmental organisation Zero Waste Scotland is using this year’s Recycle Week (September 23-29) to raise awareness of the potential energy that can be captured by simply placing peelings, egg shells, tea bags and any uneaten produce in household food recycling caddies.

The time travelling DeLorean used in the classic 1980s movies was modified to run on food waste – and the technology now exists to use it today to power vehicles, heat our homes and grow more food.

Estimates from Zero Waste Scotland reveal that 25,160 tonnes of global warming CO2 equivalent gas would be saved from entering the environment if everyone in Scotland with access to a food caddy recycled their tea bags.

Disposing this total of 6720 tonnes of material properly would be the equivalent of removing 13,349 cars off UK roads every year.

When sent to landfill, food waste releases methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term.

By successfully capturing food waste it can be converted into sustainable energy, instead of being sent to landfill or incineration. The resulting material can also be used as a fertiliser for soil to help grow more food, more sustainably.

Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “It wasn’t just fantasy when the Doc and Marty were discovering how they could power the DeLorean to time travel – they hit upon an idea that over 30 years later could make a significant difference in how we combat the climate emergency.

“Time is running out as we look to tackle the climate emergency.

“The good news is that inedible food waste has huge potential as its energy can be used to make sustainable fuel and we can harness this by simply using our food recycling caddy.

“You could provide enough power to watch the entire Back to the Future trilogy from the food held in nearly two and a half food recycling caddies.”

Around 40 per cent of the 600,000 tonnes of food waste produced by households in Scotland every year is unavoidable.

For items like tea bags, coffee grounds or banana skins, recycling food waste is a vital piece of the puzzle in tackling the climate emergency.

According to the Scottish Government’s 2017 Scottish Household survey, only 55 per cent of Scottish households say they recycle their food waste, despite around 80 per cent having access to a food recycling caddy.