Bristol is harnessing the power of poo to save the environment

We're moving towards sustainable sources for our power and Bristol Energy is leading the way by looking to take the waste out of human waste

There aren’t many places that could lay claim to the (perhaps unwanted) title of being the world capital of poo. But Bristol is in with a huge shout.

The city already lends its name to the Bristol Stool Chart, a seven-diagram method of classifying stools that was developed in 1997 by Dr Stephen Lewis and Dr Ken Heaton at the city’s Royal Infirmary.

And the fascination doesn’t stop there. 

Bristol is also home to the Bio-Bus – the UK’s first bus powered by food waste and – you guessed it – poo.

It’s been doing the rounds since 2014 and uses the waste generated at a sewage works in the suburb of Avonmouth to create biomethane gas to power the bus without resorting to fossil fuels.

Bristol Bio Bus PA Images
1374_zero waste_Bus_credit_Ben Birchall_PA Images
Bristol Bio-Buses has become a regular sight in the city and there are plans for many more later this year (Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Images)

There are now 22 biomethane gas-propelled buses in Bristol with another 77 coming down the (ahem) pipes, while a £960,000 permanent fuel station in the Bedminster area of the city opened in July.

But it’s not just the buses that are powered by poo in Bristol – homes are too.

Bristol Energy’s green gas generators are also taking the waste out of human waste, using sewage from one million Bristolians to create biomethane as a carbon-neutral and environmentally friendly substitute for natural gas.

Multi award-winning, local renewable energy firm GENeco are the brains behind the operation.

Their gas-to-grid sewage treatment works is the first of its kind, producing up to 1,900 cubic metres of enriched biomethane every hour. 

The sewage is turned into a sludge and goes through a process called anaerobic digestion, which is much like what happens in our own digestive system.

That’s 56,000 cubic metres of methane captured every day, matching the amount produced daily by all Wales’s dairy cows.

The 75,000,000 cubic metres of sewage waste produced every year creates enough methane to power 8,300 homes.

And to break that down into every time a toilet is flushed – an average household’s weekly flushes are enough to cook a weekend fry-up, a fortnight’s worth can cook a roast dinner and you could fry 83,000,000 eggs with a year of flushes.

DID YOU KNOW…

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“People often sign up to renewable energy tariffs that only offer green electricity, without considering gas,” says Simon Proctor, Bristol Energy’s head of renewables. “We’re proud that we’re one of a few energy suppliers that can offer green gas as well, helping our customers reduce their carbon footprint even further. 

“Our city is doing a fantastic job at using all available resources to create a more sustainable economy and now the people of Bristol are helping decarbonise our gas grid with every flush.”

Bristol Energy and GENeco’s process does not increase atmospheric carbon dioxide, which will help the city council in its vow to become carbon-neutral by 2030.

GENeco’s bioresource business analyst Charlotte Stamper says: “Biomethane is the fuel of the future, but it’s here now. By using renewable gas generated from food and sewage waste, we are putting the circular economy into action.”

Being the number one at number twos is one of the ways Bristol Energy is saving the planet – and their customers’ pennies. That’s why The Big Issue teamed up with the energy provider in May this year.

Bristol Energy has vowed to get “greener as they go” and, so far 75 per cent of electricity on the default tariff is from renewable sources while they have signed up to offer the Warm Homes Discount.

For the green-focused customer, there is also an option of a 100 per cent renewable electricity and green gas tariff.

As for fuel poverty, Bristol Energy are the driving force behind an action group aiming to ensure there are no cold homes in Bristol by 2028 – ending the heat-or-eat decision for 25,000 households in the city.

Bristol Energy offers a bespoke Big Issue Green Tariff: a two-year fixed deal, supplying 100 per cent renewable electricity and 15 per cent green gas. For every new customer who signs up to the tariff, Bristol Energy will give £15 per fuel to The Big Issue to support our work in the community. bristol-energy.co.uk