News / USA

Seattle to Recycle Food Waste into Electricity

Food to fuel plan in the works

A Seattle company plans to recycle food into electricity.
A Seattle company plans to recycle food into electricity.

Multimedia

Audio
Ann Dornfeld

In the northwestern United States, the city of Seattle requires its residents to separate food waste from the rest of their trash. The food gets recycled into compost for lawns, gardens and, soon, into electricity.

Every day, at Cedar Grove Composting north of Seattle, truck after truck pulls into this huge warehouse to dump loads of food and yard waste.

"There's a nice mix of green waste and material. We actually have different seasons here in the tipping building," says Susan Thoman, business development director for Cedar Grove. "There's pumpkin season, that's the first of November after Halloween. We have Christmas tree season, which is obviously the first part of January after the holidays."

According to Thoman, food waste and yard waste are currently all dumped in a pile together. Then they're mixed with microbes, ground up, and poured in long, covered rows to biodegrade for a month.

Food and yard waste are currently dumped in a pile together, eventually resulting in a rich, dark pile of finished compost.
Food and yard waste are currently dumped in a pile together, eventually resulting in a rich, dark pile of finished compost.

The people who work at Cedar Grove talk about compost the way chefs talk about food. Thoman digs her hands into a rich, dark pile of the finished product.

"This is what it's all about, though, here. This is what those wonderful things we divert from the landfill turn into."

Alternative energy

Now Cedar Grove has a new recipe in mind for its food waste. Before turning banana peels and bread crusts into compost, the company wants to use them to create alternative energy.

Food waste would be separated and sprinkled with bacteria to help the food begin to break down. Then it would be poured into a closed container called an anaerobic digester, where the decomposing food would start releasing large amounts of methane.

Instead of letting that methane escape into the atmosphere, where it could contribute to global warming, Cedar Grove would suck it up and store it. Then they could burn it, to power and heat the compost facility.

Lawrence Klein, technology and development planner for Cedar Grove, says they could also convert the gas from the food waste to compressed natural gas, to fuel their trucks.

"I mean, it's a beautiful image," says Klein. "It's taking a waste product and then driving down the highway with it. I'm excited about it."

Electrifying waste

The natural gas could also provide electricity.

"That's somewhere in the lines of eight million to 10 million kilowatt hours per year," says Klein. "That's comparable to about 400-plus Seattle homes."

Turning food waste into biogas would make food recycling more profitable - especially because the food could still be used for compost after the gas-extraction process.

"Garbage is the key to sustainability," says Sally Brown, a soils scientist at the University of Washington. According to Brown, turning food scraps into energy may be new to Americans, but it's well-established in Europe.

"It's not the whole solution, but it's something that we have the technology in hand and it's something that can be done right away to provide a significant amount of electricity."

Wastewater treatment plants around the country already use anaerobic digesters to produce biogas from solid waste. Brown says food waste is even more efficient because it hasn't been eaten yet. That means it's still full of calories - and calories are energy.

Cedar Grove has gotten a million-dollar grant from the state government to pursue its food-to-fuel plan. The company is in the design and permitting phase.

Once construction starts, it could be up and running within a year.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs