British supermarket chain Waitrose has teamed up with CNG Fuels to roll out new delivery trucks powered by, essentially, food waste. According to CNG Fuels, the fleet of 10 trucks will run on 100% renewable biomethane, a compressed natural gas produced from the anaerobic digestion of organic waste in landfills or in biogas plants. The green energy source is 40% cheaper than diesel and emits 70% less carbon dioxide.
The trucks have an impressive range of up to 804 kilometres and use technology developed by Scania, a Swedish truck maker, and Agility Fuel Solutions. “With Europe’s most advanced CNG trucks, we will be able to make deliveries to our stores without having to refuel away from base,” said Justin Laney, the general manager of central transport for John Lewis Partnership (which owns Waitrose), in a statement.
Running the trucks on compressed natural gas brings down fuel costs and helps Waitrose boost its sustainability practices. “Using biomethane will deliver significant environmental and operational benefits to our business,” Laney said. “It’s much cleaner and quieter than diesel, and we can run five gas trucks for the same emissions as one diesel lorry.”
The trucks are lighter, quicker to refuel, easier to maintain, hold more gas and can go a greater distance, depending on the load carried. The vehicles do, however, cost 50% more than ones that run on diesel, but CNG says the extra costs will be repaid in two to three years, with fuel savings of £15,000 to £20,000 per year (the equivalent of C$27,478 to $36,638), depending on mileage.
Martin Gooch, food waste expert and CEO of the Oakville, Ont. value chain management company VCMI, says Waitrose’s new trucks are a step forward for sustainability. “It’s great to see technology helping us,” he says. But, in his opinion, the ultimate prize is to prevent food waste from occurring in the first place.
Should grocers want to adopt this fuel technology in Canada, there could be challenges along the way. “Our population is, except in regions like the GTA, more widely distributed than in the U.K. and less dense,” says Gooch. “And, historically, producing biomethane in parts of Canada is a challenge because of the cold winters. Technology is steadily addressing that, but for the past decade, it’s been a recurring issue.”
Gooch also questions whether using biomethane for transporting groceries in Canada is best from a cost/benefit perspective. “Fuel is considerably more expensive in the U.K. than in Canada,” he says. “So it all comes down to cost/benefit, technology and where it makes the most sense to use biomethane.”