Powered by the people: Britain’s first Bio-Bus


How many facets there really are to sustainability respectively to the options of a new raison d’ être for recycled waste of varyingly appetising origin, is being demonstrated by a treatment plant located in the South-West of England. The company’s core objective is to „develop environmentally sustainable waste treatment processes and to increase the production of renewable energy“ in an „innovative and cost-effective“ fashion. Should your argument be that most treatment plants offer similar solutions, perhaps you are right. But this one has been awarded an ‘outstanding’ status in the Times Top 100 UK Companies listings. And it is taking its environmental efforts to new realms – by providing the first public biogas bus with fuel derived from food waste and human sewage.

Biogas: A smelly experiment or a technologically sound alternative?

The 40-seater Bio-Bus is being deployed by The Bath Bus Company to meet the demands of the steadily increasing A4 service from Bath to Bristol Airport via South Bristol. The vehicle can travel up to 300 kilometres on a single tank filling. It is said to cut down on pollution by causing fewer emissions than regular diesel engines would and thus helps to improve urban air quality. There you go!

Just for the sake of a good measure: The basis for a tankful of the novel gas source is around five people’s annual waste – as is vividly corroborated on the bus’s outer shell. But: No worries – the seating arrangement inside is as you know it …

At Bristol sewage treatment works – a plant run by GENeco, the above-mentioned award-winner – the biogas is generated through a process known as anaerobic digestion. The subsidiary of Wessex Water produces from organic matter 17 million cubic metres of biomethane per year and injects the gas created through food waste and sewage into the national gas grid network. For the bus, an individual refuelling plant was installed.

Reducing reliance on traditional fossil fuels

GENeco’s general manager Mohammed Saddiq explains: “Through treating sewage and food that is unfit for human consumption we are able to produce enough biomethane to provide a significant supply of gas to the national gas network that is capable of powering almost 8,500 homes as well as fuelling the Bio-Bus.

Gas powered vehicles have an important role to play in improving air quality in UK cities, but the Bio-Bus goes further than that and is actually powered by people living in the local area, including quite possibly those on the bus itself.“

A World Heritage City, Bristol is set to be European Green Capital in 2015.


Header image courtesy of ©GENeco