Former landfill site to provide renewable energy "fuel"

Part of Oxfordshire County Council’s former waste disposal site at Oakley Wood near Crowmarsh stopped accepting rubbish in 1992 and was restored to rough grassland and scrub but could not be used for food production.

Renewable energy

Waste management company Agrivert opened an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility within a few miles of the site in 2013. The AD facility recycles food waste collected from households in South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils and turns it into renewable energy and a liquid fertiliser.

The plant requires silage inputs to help recycle the food waste, and county council officers spotted an opportunity to use the land at Oakley Wood to grow the silage crop which could be used in the AD facility.

In October 2013, approximately 12 hectares of land at Oakley Wood was leased to Agrivert, turning a once redundant area into a site growing valuable silage crops, producing a rental income for the council and eliminating on-going costs to manage the land.

Important role for the environment

Councillor David Nimmo-Smith, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Environment, said: “This is an extremely innovative piece of work and I’m really pleased that one of our old landfill sites has gone from being unused to playing such an important role for the environment.”

Alexander Maddan from Agrivert said: “Oakley Wood has moved from a redundant landfill to a source of renewable energy via its silage crops. This is beneficial to Oxfordshire in all aspects.”

The Oakley Wood landfill site, which is next to a Household Waste Recycling Centre, is now also being used by local environmental charity Earthwatch who are working with Agrivert to conduct trials to assess the impact of biochar on grass yields.

An ancient practice

Biochar is an advanced form of plant-derived charcoal, it was originally used as a soil improver by native Amazonian people thousands of years ago. This ancient practice is being redeveloped now to boost crop yields and reduce carbon emissions, by reincorporating waste plant material as biochar back into the soil.

Dr Alan Jones from Earthwatch said: “We were really pleased to find this opportunity to work collaboratively with Oxfordshire County Council and Agrivert. The research will determine how biochar can improve yields and soil fertility on marginal land, while demonstrating how the product can increase rates of soil carbon storage which could help combat climate change.”