PLANS have been drawn up for three massive centres that could recycle food waste from all Oxfordshire homes.

The recycling company Agrivert has submitted a £6m scheme to build a plant on Green Belt land at Cassington, along with two other £6m schemes in the north and south of the county.

A food waste plant near Ardley would serve the north of the county under the plan. It is proposed that both plants could be operating by next autumn. A third plant, between Wallingford and Benson, to serve south Oxfordshire, would follow in 2010.

It has emerged that Agrivert wants to create a pioneering anaerobic digestion facility at Worton Farm, Cassingon, which would turn up to 26,000 tonnes of food waste into electricity and compost.

As well as saving food from being buried in landfill, the company says anaerobic digestion could eventually produce enough electricity to supply ten per cent of all households in Oxford.

It is proposed that the facility near Wallingford will also be an anaerobic facility.

Agrivert marketing director, Harry Waters, said: “What we are proposing is pioneering. Using anaerobic digestion on this scale has never been attempted. It will be the first plant of its kind to operate at county level.”

The technolgy involves mixing food waste with energy crop silage to produce methane. The methane is used to power a gas engine, which subsequently generates electricy.

Officers will recommend that the planning application is approved when it goes to the county council’s planning and regulation committee on Monday. The report by Chris Cousins, head of sustainable development at the county, says the development on a Green Belt site is justified by the need for an anaerobic digestion facility to help the council meet recycling targets.

There is also a recommendation to grant planning permission for a giant ‘in-vessel’ composting centre at Ashgrove Farm, Ardley. This would be a different waste treating system, which involves recycling kitchen waste and green waste together.

Food is put in large closed containers, with air pumped into them to produce compost, which would be used primarily on neighbouring farmland. The county council says a decision is yet to be made about who will be awarded food waste plant contracts.

It is understood that if Agrivert wins the contract, it would build and operate all three facilities, with the county council paying gate fees for the waste delivered from homes.

The county council says it is still determined to stick to its plans to see food waste recycled by the spring. The company that secures the contract would be expected to make arrangements for food waste while the plants in Oxfordshire are being built.