Starting October 1st, food waste from large institutions and supermarkets — not residents — will be collected. And only some of that will be headed to anaerobic digesters.
Massachusetts’ state-wide food waste ban, which was a decade in the making, puts the commonwealth among leaders in the United States in addressing an indulgence that is not unique to our modern existence: throwing away large quantities of food.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is hoping to find alternative methods of disposal because landfilling is expensive as well as send the message to discourage the creation of waste altogether. The hope is that ordering and preparing will be questioned to ensure less ends up going to the trash as a part of their process.
The more complete solution however, according to many environmentalists and an increasing number of businesspersons, is utilizing the process of Anaerobic Digestion. Food scraps fed to microbes in a heated tank without oxygen is converted, in a month or less, into biogas — mostly methane — that can be captured and used to generate electricity.
There are currently six wastewater treatment plants in the state that use the process. The egg-shaped buildings visible on Deer Island in the Boston Harbor do that to make power for the sewage treatment process.
There are also three Anaerobic Digesters in Massachusetts, which will gladly be accepting food waste under the new regulations, however there is a considerable amount of pre-sorting and processing of the food waste before it can be converted into a pumpable slurry for injection into the digesters.
While Anaerobic Digestion is a forward thinking option, it is still scarce in the United States because it is an expensive undertaking. When Anton Finelli and his partners did the research they were shocked to discover you could count on one hand the anaerobic digestion projects in North America designed specifically to take and process food waste. So, his company, Common Wealth Resource Management Corporation decided to build a pilot plant at the landfill site in Dartmouth, and hopes it attracts customers.
The state hopes the ban will spur construction of more anaerobic digestion and other solutions to turn organic waste into a resource.