Pollution is being made worse by London’s increasing reliance on fresh food bought online and home-delivered by diesel-powered trucks, the boss of a clean tech firm warned today.
Toby Peters, founder of Croydon-based Dearman, spoke out after a new report found refrigerated delivery trucks “emit disproportionate amounts of toxic pollutants”.
Mr Peters, whose company is already working with Sainsbury’s to trial a new zero-emission lorry, said supermarkets must act to reduce their reliance on diesel fleets to improve air quality.
The report, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Dearman and the Clean Air Alliance pressure group, found refrigerated truck journeys to London homes and supermarket depots emitted the annual equivalent exhaust fumes of a car driving 2.4 million laps around the M25.
Pollution being pushed into London’s skies from delivery lorries is often worsened by a second diesel engine used to power large on-board fridges.
It is claimed that these diesel-powered fridges storing fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish can emit nearly 30 times as much toxic particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide than a lorry engine.
The report said: “Refrigerated vehicles are a vital link in our food supply, but can also emit disproportionate amounts of toxic pollutants, whose significance has not yet been recognised in the policies being developed to tackle air pollution in Britain’s cities. In trucks and articulated trailers, cooling is usually powered by a secondary engine that is poorly regulated, inefficient and can emit far more particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen than the main engine pulling it around.”
Commenting on the report, Mr Peters said: “The way we buy food is changing by the day. Supermarkets are delivering our weekly shop to our door, we’ve seen a boom in convenience stores and we are eating more and more chilled food.
“All that requires more polluting, diesel-powered refrigerated trucks on the streets where we live. But if we are going to clean up the air we breathe, we have to tackle the most polluting diesel engines first — and that includes the ones that keep our food cold.”
Of the Londoners interviewed for the report, more than three quarters backed the introduction of an Ultra Low Emission Zone. The zone means vehicles must meet exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge to travel inside.
As part of Dearman’s Sainsbury’s trial, they have built the world’s first delivery truck with a zero emissions air-cooled refrigeration unit powered by liquid nitrogen.
The vehicle is undergoing a three-month test, during which it is expected to save up to 1.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 37kg of nitrogen oxides and 2kg of particulates.