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Waste Not, Want Not, and Get Electricity

4-13-17 waste

America wastes 30% of our food. That is an insane amount when you think about it. Go to the grocery store, purchase your shopping list, and then go home and immediately throw 1/3 of it away. You wouldn’t, would you? Yet, this is what ends up happening all around our country.

The goal, first and foremost, should be to not waste food in the first place. However, restaurants and grocery stores have rules and laws they need to follow about how long to keep things available to consumers. We as consumers should think smarter and buy food more frequently in smaller quantities to keep our cupboards and fridges stocked. This way, food stays fresher longer, and there is less chance of waste.

Waste is going to happen no matter what. Composting and recycling are a great start of something to do at home to help the environment. However, on a larger scale, say a football stadium or a small town, what can they do with food waste?

The technology is now available to take food waste and turn it into electricity. While it can’t stop us from wasting food, it can turn the waste into something positive that can provide clean energy. By creating this renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced, as well as soot and sulfur dioxide emissions from diesel fuel or other harmful pollutants in fossil fuels.

The most popular method of disposing of food waste is by using an anaerobic digester. This is a machine that takes food waste, farm-by products, and manure and mixes it together without the presence of oxygen. The microorganisms in the organic material break everything down. This process creates methane gas, which is then collected and can be turned into energy to produce heat or to power electric generators. In addition to creating energy, the digester separates the solids from the liquids to create nutrient rich natural fertilizer.

This method is popular on farms, mainly because of the need for an organic material like manure to help the process. The end product of nutrient rich soil can also be used in the fields to help fertilize crops. It makes sense for this movement to be starting throughout the farming industry, considering a staple of farm ownership is using your resources as much as possible for as long as you can. The recycling of food waste and manure into something that is very appealing. Several farms around the country are implementing this technique already with great success. One of them, located in MA, processes 14,000 tons of food waste annually.

Sources:

Hardie, Laura. “Food Waste Gets Second Life as Renewable Energy on Vermont Dairy Farm.” UVM

Ragalie-Carr, Jean. “From Food Waste to Energy: It’s Here!” DairyGood

“Recovering Value from Waste.” AgStar

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