Waste-disposal units designed to turn leftover food into electricity and fertiliser could be built around every town and city as part of a scheme being considered by ministers.

The new generation of anaerobic digesters has been developed in a government-sponsored trial designed to find ways of solving the shortage of landfill sites. They will be ideally located in suburbs because, unlike previous models, the new units are not reliant on farm slurry to provide moisture for the recycling process. Without the smelly transportation of animal waste, the prospect of plants in urban areas, will, the Government hopes, be a lot easier for residents to digest.

The ability to process waste on a commercial scale without using slurry was developed as part of a £30million trial in Ludlow, Shropshire, by Greenfinch, an engineering firm working with government backing, in partnership with South Shropshire District Council. It was prompted by the need to reduce the 16-18 million tonnes of waste food that is buried as landfill each year.