Does your kitchen sink come equipped with a food waste disposer? If so, each time you throw food scraps into it, you could be helping to produce clean energy.
When food scraps enter the sewage system, many local water treatment plants use them to produce biogas – a combination of methane and carbon dioxide – that results from the breakdown of organic waste. These water treatment facilities can thus use biogas to not only power their plant, but also send any excess energy into natural gas pipelines and the electricity grid.
A recent article in United Airlines’ Hemisphere magazine notes the increasing popularity of using food scraps to produce energy:
“Having caught on to the value of organic waste, a number of cities are looking for ways to increase the amount that flows to their sewage plants. Across the U.S., nearly 850 wastewater treatment plants use biogas as a source of energy. Some municipalities are even tapping local businesses’ byproducts, using everything from brewery hops to over-the-hill supermarket produce in order to ramp up biogas production. In fact, the race to make biogas is altering the image of the sewage treatment industry, which is rebranding itself from ‘wastewater management’ to ‘water resource recovery.’”
An article on the Triple Pudit web site also discusses the benefits of foodwaste disposers:
“Even the most well-informed of green-tech junkies likely overlooked a pair of reports published in early 2011 that could have major implications for the way humanity disposes of its food waste. Taken together, the two reports, one from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the other from sustainability consultancy PE Americas, draw a vivid conclusion: Garbage disposals…could help slow climate change.”
According to the Massachusetts report, “If additional organic waste streams are diverted to these facilities to supplement municipal wastewater solids, even greater efficiencies and energy potential can be attained for energy generation onsite and resale to the grid. Such a program leads to environmental benefits from methane capture, renewable energy generation, and organic waste volume reduction.”
For more information on food waste disposers, visit AHAM’s information page on the benefits of food waste recycling. The Sallan Foundation also has an interesting article about how some communities are dealing with this issue. So the next time you throw yesterday’s leftovers down the kitchen sink, you could be helping to power your city!