Tag Archives: Food Waste

The Fremont Food Waste-to-Energy Plant Shut Down


The Fremont food waste-to-energy plant, located in Fremont, Michigan, touted as the first of its kind in the nation has closed a little more than two years after it opened because it hadn’t paid its electric bill.

The plant, operated by Novi Energy, agreed to sell renewable energy — enough to power 1,200 homes — to Consumers Energy. But on Monday, a Consumers Energy crew was at the vacant plant to shut off the power.

The plant manager claims it is a legal fight over ownership that led to the shutdown in January but nearby businesses say nobody has been seen working at the plant since late last year. Fences were locked and the lawn was choked with weeds.

The $22 million Fremont Community Anaerobic Digester, built with help from a $12.8 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan guarantee, was designed to take in 100,000 tons of waste each year from West Michigan food processors, most notably nearby baby food producer Gerber Products Co., and turn that into energy.  The Fremont project also benefited from a 2008 state law that requires Michigan utility companies to obtain at least 10% of their power from renewable sources in the state by 2015.

Anaerobic digestion has been around for centuries, although only recently evolved to where it can produce energy on a utility-use scale from a variety of food waste.   The plant is not the first anaerobic digester power site in Michigan, but is considered the largest and the only one in the state that can harness energy from waste sources other than manure.

While there is opportunity for more of these plants in the United States, the price of digester electricity is considerably higher than conventional energy. Government incentives would be key.

The City of Fremont is keeping a close eye on what’s happening at the plant, since it helped it out with a $120,000-per-year tax abatement and was relying on helping the state make progress on their sustainability goals.


Supermarkets are significant contributors to the 34 million tons of food wasted each year.


The disposal of food waste is a complicated and costly process. In addition, with cities and states passing legislation to restrict the amount of food waste being sent to landfills, facilities subject to these regulations need to quickly act on a solution that is cost-effective, environmentally-friendly and compliant.

In an effort to reduce waste sent to landfills and to limit the amount of harmful methane gasses emitted, many people turn to composting as an alternative. However, this is not the most viable solution for a few key reasons. Composting carries many challenges including rising costs, carbon emissions while transporting waste, on-site storage logistics, labor and the inability to accurately measure waste.

There are two alternative food waste diversion technologies that are becoming popular in the marketplace, aerobic and anaerobic digesters. These solutions help to eliminate the negative environmental factors and are smart investments for companies that produce large amounts of food waste.

Aerobic digesters have been developed to eliminate food waste on-site at its point of generation. They accelerate the natural decomposition of food waste converting it to nutrient-neutral water that is transported safely through standard sewer lines. Many aerobic digesters run using a continual process, enabling waste to be added as needed with nothing left to haul away. This is currently the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly option in the marketplace.

What makes aerobic digesters a more efficient alternative is that they minimize the logistical effort needed to dispose of the waste. The next step is to incorporate real-time quantification and transparency of food waste volumes. For example, some on-site aerobic digesters provide users the ability to determine where and when waste is produced rather than relying on assumptions. Data is crucial in reducing food waste and managing efficient operations.

Other parts of the world are capitalizing on the positive impact of anaerobic digesters which break down waste and convert it into an energy rich biogas. A supermarket chain in the United Kingdom is using its food waste to cut off completely from the grid powering the supermarket’s lighting and refrigerators without the need for fossil fuels.

While anaerobic digestion is a forward thinking option, it is scarce in the United States because it is an expensive undertaking. However, I do foresee this becoming more widespread as the U.S. has a strong desire to achieve energy independence. Food waste companies need to continue to evolve their technology in order be able to provide customers with an effective means of generating anaerobic digester feedstock without losing the on-site nature and data analytics of aerobic digesters. We are currently piloting projects with leading anaerobic digestion companies to offer consumers a viable food waste management program that will provide the benefits of both aerobic and anaerobic digestion.

Navigating the Complexities of Food Waste

food waste in compost

As food waste represents more than 30 percent of the material disposed of in landfills today, haulers face increased demands for viable diversion options from consumers and the government, who are attempting to achieve sustainability and zero waste goals.

The diversion of food waste is a complex issue that has historically involved extensive logistics resulting in significant costs to waste haulers and in turn to their customers, the generators of food waste. The current disposal infrastructure in the U.S. typically requires the collection and transportation of food waste in traditional vehicles, resulting in significant costs being passed on to the generators as well as the unnecessary consumption of fossil fuels and associated harmful emissions. When analyzed correctly, these factors often negate the benefit of the diversion of the waste itself. As state and local regulatory agencies continue to implement bans on food waste in landfills, the lack of viable disposal options in proximity to the source of the waste will prove to be a barrier to ultimately achieve these goals. Fortunately, there are new technologies that provide the resources and tools necessary to offer consumers a means of compliance while presenting new opportunities in an industry that is in need of a solution.

In order for the consumer to comply with new regulations in a cost-effective manor, it is necessary to identify a solution that does not rely on traditional vehicles and manpower to collect and transport waste long distances to compost facilities or anaerobic digesters. In addition to the obvious economic and environmental challenges associated with traditional collection and disposal, the consumer is forced to sacrifice valuable kitchen or retail space for the on-site storage of food waste waiting to be collected, as well as the inability to quantify the results of their efforts. It is also virtually impossible to accurately measure each generator’s waste and provide the reporting that is needed to track diversion efforts and carbon reductions.

Real data is a key component to not only quantifying our diversion efforts, but more importantly to provide generators with the information needed to get to the root of the problem. It is important to examine not just how we dispose of this waste, but how much of it we actually create.

Over the past few years, several new technologies have emerged in the U.S. that make the disposal of food waste much less demanding, including on-site options, such as our Eco-Safe Aerobic Digester. Aerobic digesters accelerate the natural decomposition of food waste and convert it to nutrient-neutral water that is transported safely through standard sewer lines without any additional handling required. Some of these units run using a continual process, enabling waste to be added as needed with no chemicals used and no airborne contaminants present. The most logical, cost effective solution to this growing issue is to treat food waste at its point of generation. This would eliminate the need for increased logistics and provide the most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly option in the marketplace today.

Digesters tend to work similarly to a human stomach. They are designed to process a wide range of food waste types, such as fruit, vegetables, cooked and uncooked meat and poultry, fish, dairy and bakery items. BioHitech America’s on-site aerobic digester can eliminate up to one ton of food waste in a 24-hour period.

In addition to being an effective tool used to decompose food waste, the Eco-Safe Digester serves as a powerful management tool, providing key metrics to users that can help indicate inefficiencies within an organization or quantify the benefits of reduced disposal and corresponding “truck rolls.” The digester is equipped with a scale that weighs food waste each time it is added to the unit, clearly determining where, when and what food waste is disposed of. Since the digester provides real data rather than relying on assumptions, management can identify opportunities for improvement in the process.

The BioHitech Cloud, a reliable, manageable and secure reporting platform for data that can be accessed on many types of devices, measures key metrics to optimize the waste disposal process. The reporting provides an accurate audit trail to support environmental directives that tracks savings, compares utilization, highlights successes and uncovers anomalies. Organizing and preparing reports is easy and can be designed for single or multiple locations, by geographical areas, by management structure or by season. Reports are also easy to access and can be created from several devices, including computers, tablets and smartphones.

Quantifying food waste data in real-time is paramount for industries to provide accurate, concise and useful analytics in order to facilitate zero-waste behavior within an organization. This information, along with a heightened consciousness about the alternatives to dumping food waste in landfills, will drive tremendous opportunities. According to the EPA, it is estimated that if we were to prevent food waste from either being created or disposed, it would be similar to removing a quarter of all cars in America from the road.

The increasing emphasis on food waste diversion will also continue to support the development of other disposal methods, such as anaerobic digestion, a growing means of disposal in the U.S. As in many parts of Europe, the U.S. will continue to strive to utilize organic waste as feedstock for energy production. One of the U.S.’s largest generators of food waste, Walt Disney World, has recently announced a switch from composting to using anaerobic digestion to not only remove its food waste but to help power the operation of its parks and resorts.

Anaerobic digesters can be capital intense and therefore will rely on significant tip fees to help subsidize the cost of construction and operation. While this can present a challenge in obtaining feedstock, it is likely that the larger obstacle will be the inability to site facilities within close proximity to large volumes of feedstock, leading to significant costs to collect and transport waste to its final destination. These costs along with the necessary tip fees imposed for disposal will be challenging to developers of these types of facilities and burdensome on the consumer.

In most cases, anaerobic digesters require food waste to be in some form of liquid or slurry, adding additional costs to support the process. At BioHitech America, we continue to evolve our technology to provide our customers with an effective means of generating anaerobic digestion feedstock without losing the on-site nature and data analytics of aerobic digesters. By pre-processing the waste at the point of generation, we are able to significantly reduce the volume of waste needing to be transported and providing the ability to perform said transportation with more efficient vehicles than traditional waste collection trucks. BioHitech has partnered with leading anaerobic digestion companies, including CRMC Dartmouth Bioenergy, an anaerobic digestion facility located in New Bedford, Massachusetts, to pilot its technology as a pre-processing unit for CRMC’s recently constructed facility. This facility accepts commercial/industrial food wastes, organic sludges, FOG or other liquid or slurried non-hazardous organics. The Bioenergy Facility is the first of its kind to be sited at an operating Massachusetts landfill and the first developed in the state to produce biogas for use in a pre-existing landfill gas-to-energy facility.

As the evolution of the food waste industry progresses, on site solutions such as the Eco-Safe Digester and other similar products will become increasingly relevant to its success and paramount to other disposal methods such as anaerobic digestion and future technologies. Being more progressive and adopting new means of food waste disposal is no longer just a social responsibility; sustainable alternatives are becoming a mandatory requirement.

Good Data is Key


For many organizations waste is a top three operating expense that in some companies stretch over many states making data management a struggle. Your organization needs reliable data to operate effectively so bad data cannot be ignored.

Bad data impacts all levels of your organization. If data is bad, financial reporting is significantly wrong as the incorrect data is being used as the baseline for budgeting and trending models. Site utilization data is also important to support the expected ROI. Performance reporting is based on accuracy when you use incomplete or inaccurate data you will not be able to defend the data you will lose credibility and your commitment to efficiency program will lead to decreased results. Bad data or no data will also ultimately produce a lack of results making future requests for capital funding a challenge.

Good, accurate waste data is valuable and no longer a mystery. BioHitech America captures the detailed cost and utilization data from each Eco-Safe Digester enabling the most extensive and proactive approach to food waste diversion. Leveraging our data, across facilities, departments, and geographies, we are able to proactively address more than the elimination of food waste.

Through our reporting platform we ensure accurate data for financial, performance, and sustainability reporting. Our systematic approach to data capture and quality control also identifies food waste for purchase adjustments, reuse, or donation opportunities.

Good Data supports cost avoidance as problems are quickly identified and resolved before escalating to a large financial burden. Good data will help pinpoint inefficiencies across locations and help stakeholders understand what is driving the differences and what can be done to improve utilization and performance. Good data also supports a solid return on investment that impacts your bottom line. Accurate data enables you to take action to support strategic initiatives, improve efficiencies, and lower costs.

Incorrect and incomplete waste data is no longer acceptable. The key is to properly identify and manage your data because knowing that will simplify the waste process, reduce costs and resources, and prevent waste altogether.

A Documentary on Food Waste in North America


Just Eat It is a 75-minute documentary looking at the issues of food waste and food rescue.

The film makers try to explain that as a society, we consume countless cooking shows, culinary magazines, and foodie blogs, yet many countries throw nearly half of their food in the bin.

Just Eat It looks at our systemic obsession with expiry dates, perfect produce, and portion sizes, and reveals the core of this seemingly insignificant issue that is having devastating consequences around the globe.

The film follows the filmmakers as they dive into the issue of waste from farm, through retail, all the way to the back of their own fridge.

After catching a glimpse of the billions of dollars of good food that is tossed each year in North America, they pledge to quit grocery shopping for a six-month period, cold turkey and survive exclusively on foods that would otherwise be thrown away.

Adopting a life of freeganism, the practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded, often referred to as “dumpster diving” got its start int he 1990s.  Retail suppliers of food such as supermarkets and restaurants routinely throw away food in good condition.  By foraging, freegans believe they are keeping edible food from adding to landfill clutter.

The debut of the film is set for April 27th at the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto.  Watch the Just Eat It trailer below.


The Latest Recycling Push


In 1980, Woodbury, New Jersey, was the first town to mandate recycling which quickly attracted the attention of state legislators who then set out to make recycling an important cause.  By the end of 1990, most states had responded by creating recycling laws of their own. These laws varied in the details, but they aimed to reduce the amount of waste generated, reduce the amount sent to disposal, and boost the amount recycled.

More than 30 years later it is safe to say that those laws did succeed in reducing waste and promoting recycling, but has recently not seen much change in diversion percentages.  With reengaged focus on the environment, reducing carbon emissions, and zero waste initiatives, legislators are once again furiously looking to improve recycling rates and are now focusing on the low hanging fruit, food waste.

As a country, we have been overlooking the largest sector of waste that is the easiest to recycle with the right solution.  Food waste represents the greatest opportunity for many municipalities and if we are serious about diverting waste from landfills it is imperative to take a smart leap towards the right solution for food waste disposal.  Many years ago, composting was deemed the only conceived solution, but was never wildly successful or accepted because of the many challenges that had to be overcome; educating the masses, citing and regulatory compliance, transportation challenges, and resale potential.

Hiding right under our noses, for much longer than 30 years, are wastewater treatment facilities.  Many have already realized that they hold the key to a successful food waste recycling campaign and process.  These facilities have the potential to turn the nutrient-rich remnants of waste into renewable energy and compost and many more are now upgrading their facilities to do the very same.  Some are even building on to be able to process and treat the excess food waste they anticipate to arrive shortly.  In addition to wastewater facilities, anaerobic digester (AD) facilities are slowly popping up in municipalities across the United States to accomplish the same results.

Our state legislators are once again setting out to re-promote and re-shape recycling laws to include food waste now that they have a better solution available.  Our WWT facilities should be reaching out to those same state legislators to make sure they have secured the available grant funding to upgrade their remaining locations to turn our food waste into a renewable energy.  This new approach will achieve far better results than composting has in the past, eliminate food waste disposal at landfills, and increase state diversion goals.

It only took 30 years for state legislators to devise a plan that can deliver results.  Sometimes you have to fail in order to succeed.  Good thing it’s not too late.

Piles of Garbage are Growing Around the World


Projections indicate that our rate of trash production will keep rising past 2100.

A recent World Bank report projected that the amount of solid waste generated globally will nearly double by the year 2025, going from 3.5 million tons to 6 million tons per day. But the truly concerning part is that these figures will only keep growing for the foreseeable future. We likely won’t hit peak garbage—the moment when our global trash production hits its highest rate, then levels off—until sometime after the year 2100, the projection indicates, when we produce 11 million tons of trash per day.

Why does this matter? Because much of this waste isn’t handled properly: Millions of plastic fragments are flooding the world’s oceans and disrupting marine ecosystems and food waste driving hundreds of miles to landfills where it renders itself useless, is a useless waste of time and money.

Creating policies that give incentive to people to produce less waste  could be a way of tackling the problem. In many Japanese municipalities, trash must be disposed in clear bags (to publicly show who isn’t bothering to recycle) and recyclables are routinely sorted into dozens of categories, policies driven by the limited amount of space for landfills in the small country.

Very small and simple changes in the way you live can have dramatic effects on how much waste you generate. You, as a consumer, have considerable power to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill by choosing to buy products that use less packaging or are packaged in recyclable materials.

It is also worth remembering that although recycling is better than disposing of it in the normal trash, a lot of energy is consumed for both the recycling process and the transportation of the waste to and from its final destination. Any steps you make that reduce or eliminate the use of an item you would normally recycle or throw away will have a significant positive impact on the environment. Finding on-site solutions for food waste disposal and choosing products that are reusable and long lasting instead of single-use disposable products will save a lot of waste and also save money and the environment over the long term.

Garbage might seem like a passé environmental issue, but landfills will not be able to contain this growing amount of waste in a sustainable manner.  Tripling our global rate of garbage production is a particularly bad idea.

Municipal solid waste management is the most important service a city provides, measuring the extent of the problem is a critical first step to resolving it.

The 12 Steaks


Imagine going to the supermarket and purchasing 12 large T-bone steaks, returning home and dumping those steaks right into the trash. Whether we are aware of this or not, the given situation occurs very frequently. Albeit we are not purchasing food and immediately throwing it away, we do spend a lot of money on goods that end up in the trash eventually.

The biggest perpetrator of this purchase-to-dump method is the food industry. At any point in the food’s lifecycle, the idea that it can be deemed trash is forever looming and once discarded or determined to be unfit is often never given another thought.

The problem is that there is very little attention given to the food once it is labeled as trash.  Food that is dumped into the trash is either defined as pre-consumer or post-consumer food waste. Pre-consumer waste includes trim waste, spoiled, over-produced over-ordered or incorrectly prepared food.   The largest portion of pre-consumer waste is a result of over-ordering as a result of an inefficient purchasing process.   On average, 4-10 percent of all purchased food finds its home in the trash before it even has the chance to reach a table. The lucky ones, who do make it to the table, however, often rejoin their friends later on in the process, in the form of post-consumer waste. Post –consumer waste is most often than not, customers who have not finished their meals which may mean the portion size is too large. If a customer opts for the ‘doggy bag’, the food on their plate ends up in – you guessed it – the trash in their homes.

This food waste also presents a financial quandary, as money is literally going into the garbage. In fact, all of this food waste is costing the food business $23 billion in profit – a number that could definitely make a difference in restaurants’ finances.

So how can restaurants reduce their waste?

Understanding where the food waste is coming from is the key to reducing the waste. By monitoring waste restaurants have the opportunity to reduce their pre-consumer waste flow quickly and efficiently.  With an improved purchasing process, preparing less food, properly training workers, and creating smaller portions, savings is achievable.

In order to prevent the waste you need to capture the data.  Without the data, those 12 steaks will never stand a chance.

A Wastewater Treatment Facility’s New Best Friend


Food waste is the second largest category of municipal solid waste (MSW) sent to landfills in the United States.  Over 30 million tons of food waste is sent to landfills each year.  Shrinking landfill space, escalating landfill taxes, and reducing harmful emissions from landfills, are creating strong incentives for local authorities and businesses to find other treatment options for their food waste.  Many are turning to wastewater treatment facilities.

The volume of organic waste that needs to be treated is growing due to an increasing population and more stringent regulations designed to reduce organic waste being sent to landfill.  For the treatment of food waste, Anaerobic Digestion (AD) offers the greatest environmental benefit of any treatment option.

Anaerobic digestion technology is commonly used throughout the United States to break down sewage sludge at wastewater treatment facilities already.  In the past few months, there has been a movement to start adding food waste.

So, why is it a better treatment option than sending the food waste to a composting facility?

  1. Because the energy capturing infrastructure is already in place at many waste water treatment facilities.

  2. Because wastewater treatment facilities already have the on-site expertise and years of experience dealing with anaerobic digesters which are difficult to operate without thorough knowledge.

  3. Wastewater treatment facilities are located in urban areas where compost facilities are typically located farther away.

  4. Wastewater facilities offer an opportunity to employ more people.

  5. Anaerobically digesting food waste prior to composting reduces the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which contribute to air pollution.

  6. Renewable energy is source of revenue and is in high demand.

As energy prices continue to climb, capturing the energy from food waste, using it to operate these facilities and selling the excess energy back to the grid is a great outcome for both the wastewater treatment plants and local municipalities.  In addition, the production of renewable energy will make wastewater treatment facilities eligible for Government incentives.

Organic waste is a hugely valuable resource, and the United States needs to get the most out of it.  Expanding the use of anaerobic digestion inside the wastewater industry is a great way to get this done.

The Power of We


Harvest Power continues to implement solutions in strategic geographic clusters and has grown rapidly since its founding in 2008 garnering awards for its business of energy generation and soil revitalization.

Their model provides a solution to three distinct challenges: diverting material from landfills, producing renewable energy, and sustainably utilizing water and nutrients.

Harvest Power imports anaerobic digesters from Germany which captures the biogas byproduct of decomposing food and generates electricity and thermal heat.  They have just announced that they are converting one of their compost facilities into one of the largest commercial-scale high solids anaerobic digester facilities in North America for organic waste.  The facility, Energy Garden, is located in Richmond, British Columbia and will have the capacity to convert 40,100 tons of food and yard waste per year from residential and commercial generators into clean energy. Harvest Power was attracted to convert their Richmond facility into something more because of the region’s progressive environmental policies.

The facility is expected to produce enough energy to power about 900 homes per year generating revenue from the energy sales.   “This facility represents the innovation, passion and commitment required to usher in the future of organics management,” said Paul Sellew, Harvest Power founder and CEO. “We are excited to continue our partnership with Metro Vancouver and the city of Richmond community to cost-effectively convert organic materials once destined for the landfill into clean energy.”  This facility will represent a cost savings to the municipality who will pay about 50% less on their waste hauling bills by trucking less waste to landfills.

Harvest Power is just one local business retooling to take advantage of an upcoming policy change.  In 2015, all Metro Vancouver homeowners and businesses will be required to separate organic waste, including food scraps.  Some businesses are already setting up a new process in advance of the new rules. Costco should be regarded as a trend setter as they have been ahead of this new legislation for months.  The installation of the Eco-Safe Digester is eliminating the transportation of food scraps thus reducing their carbon footprint meeting the requirements of climate change legislation.

The end result of turning the food waste into energy is far better than into bags of compost.  But creating that type of facility is expensive and can’t be done without help.   Financing for the Energy Garden included $4 million from Natural Resources Canada and $1.5 million from BC Bioenergy Network in addition to $2 million from Metro Vancouver for site improvements over the next 10 years.

Vancouver business owners will still have to pay for waste disposal no matter where their food waste ends up, choosing a process and a solution that works best for your business takes time and due diligence.