Bones will light homes

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A COMPANY that generates power by burning chicken manure is taking on the mountainous task of whittling down the accumulated stores of powdered meat and bone meal (MBM), made from cows slaughtered under the plan to eradicate BSE.

Fibrogen, based in London, runs three power stations that produce electricity by burning chicken manure. The firm has won a contract to burn 85,000 tonnes of MBM annually at its plant near Scunthorpe, north Lincolnshire, for the next three years.

That will start to ease the Government's problem of how to dispose of the 340,000 tonnes of MBM in storage.

The MBM cannot be used in any way that might pass it back to the human or animal food chain, state EU rules, because it is the rendered remains of animals slaughtered under the "Over 30-Month Scheme", introduced in mid-1996 to get rid of BSE or "mad cow disease".

But while animals areslaughtered at a regular rate, there has been no way of disposing of the MBM. Thus the mountain of powder has been growing at an average of roughly 1,400 tonnes each week, or 70,000 tonnes a year.

The obvious solution was incineration, but power companies such as PowerGen and National Power were reluctant to alter their power stations to handle the fuel. Rupert Fraser, managing director of Fibrogen, said the incineration of MBM would "pose no risk to health - but even so the ash will go to landfill".