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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid