Carcass disposal breakthrough

Carcass disposal breakthrough

August 1, 2001 The Herald (Glasgow) by Robert Ross

A NEW method of disposing of cattle carcasses and waste from abattoirs is being pioneered in the UK by George Russell, one of the veterans of the Scottish meat industry.

The technology, developed in the US, is claimed to be capable of destroying the prions responsible for triggering BSE.

From headquarters in Clydebank a new company, Waste Reduction Europe (WRE), is poised to begin the manufacture and sale of the units which reduce waste material to a sterile liquid which can then be disposed of by release into the public sewage system.

Russell, former owner of the Euroscot meat plant at Bathgate, and more recently chief executive of Scotland the Brand, is executive chairman of WRE, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of US-based Waste Reduction.

The new disposal system, which operates "like a large pressure cooker", could make an important contribution to reducing costs in the meat industry, with knock-on benefits for farmers, said Russell.

WRE estimates that its system could save more than (pounds) 53m a year in the disposal of cattle culled under the over-30-month scheme, which is designed to keep older cattle out of the food chain. Conventional incineration is reckoned to cost (pounds) 73m a year as against (pounds) 19m for the new method.

WRE's method had been evaluated by Dr David Taylor of the Institute of Animal Health in Edinburgh, a figure of international standing in BSE research.

His conclusion is that prions associated with BSE infection are eradicated under the system, which involves "cooking" at 150 degrees centigrade.

The final approval required from the European Commission's scientific steering committee is expected in the near future, triggering a full-scale sales assault throughout the EU.

One plant is already on trial in Northern Ireland and abattoir operators in France are reported to be keen to find an alternative to incineration.

The technology behind the "tissue digester" was developed in 1992 in America by two scientists at the Albany Medical College, New York.

It was originally devised for the destruction of animal carcasses containing small amounts of radioactivity.

The possibility of its use for eliminating BSE prions was developed in Edinburgh by Taylor. He envisages the new system having an enormous impact on how potentially hazardous waste generally is dealt with. The success of the new process lies in the combination of high temperature and alkali concentration.

When the "cooking" stage is complete, the resultant liquid effluent can be discharged to the public sewer or baked into a cake-like material suitable for landfill or for burning as an energy source. The distilled water remaining can be used to start off the next batch in the tissue digester.

Each of the large units, capable of dealing with several cattle, would cost about (pounds) 500,000 but the range will include smaller models, including a mobile version which could be taken on farm to deal with fallen stock.

Russell envisages that in the production phase it would be possible for the engineering skills of Clydeside shipworkers to be utilised as fabricators for the basic "cooker" units.

WRE would then install the electronic element itself.

Within three years, he forecast, 500 manufacturing jobs could be created to meet demand from the UK, continental Europe, and overseas.

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