We can Do everything If We Want to: These Cities Transform Food Waste into Fuel

Today, 8 US states have laws about food recycling, 6 have food waste bans, and even more cities and states have enacted legislation for recycling.

This comes as a result of THE public demand to reduce their landfills and carbon footprint. Moreover, at least half a dozen cities in America have started using anaerobic digestion for food waste management.

This is a widespread method used in Europe which uses bacteria to dissolve organic material in an environment free of oxygen and it’s considered to be a much faster process than regular composting.

This is the same tech that cities are using in their wastewater treatments.

Turning Waste into Fuel

LA is now expanding their food-to-biogas program and a private facility has recently opened up in Salt Lake City to take food waste from restaurants and in Connecticut as well where one anaerobic digester is running and three others are scheduled for construction.

One of the biggest facilities in Brooklyn, New York started using the Newtown Creek Wasterwater Treatment Plant in 2016 to process 130 tons of liquid food waste or 3 percent of the daily food waste in the city.

Food waste is solely a piece of the puzzle of the sewage which this plant manages in its silver tanks. According to officials’ estimates, Newtown will make around 190 to 275 million cubic feet of natural gas for the electricity by next year.

Newtown Remains a Minority of Wastewater Facilities

Despite their proven tech, they’re still a minority of the wastewater facilities in the nation that tackles food waste.

None of the remaining 13 plants in New York process food waste. Patrick Sefass, executive director of the American Biogas Council explains that they’re at one-seventh or one-tenth of the industry’s potential.

There are more than 2000 anaerobic digesters in the country made to produce biogas; however, most of them which process food waste are on the farms, not in the cities.

Why Are Cities Slow on Anaerobic Digestion?

In the cities, the diversion of food waste through anaerobic digestion has been slow due to the higher cost of the process than the price of composting and also because it requires new sites that are built by private investors or updates to the existing public infrastructure.

Moreover, these digesters are more expensive to maintain than the composting ones in San Francisco; however, they’re beneficial in the production of two vital by-products. One is the rich soil additive needed in agriculture and biogas that can be sold and reused for fuel.

San Francisco Has Both Systems for Food Waste Handling

Serfass claims that anaerobic digestion and composting complement one another and San Francisco uses both.

The anaerobic digesters, particularly the ones which process food waste and sewage like the one in Newton find it hard to process waste from yards like sticks and leaves. This is where compost is required.

Plus, digesters work optimally in very populated or agricultural areas due to the constant supply of food waste necessary.

Federal regulations give a disincentive to transform waste from food into biogas through the reduction of the value of renewable gas which a wastewater treatment plant makes when it uses food waste as intake.

But, wastewater plants may offset their energy costs by using the biogas which they make. San Luis Obispo, a city in California, decided to avoid the wastewater facility and sent the waste to a private facility which processes food waste from several sources on the coast of California.

Sources:

ONE GREEN PLANET

POLITICO

NPR

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