If you don’t clean your plate at a Massachusetts restaurant, the scraps may not go to waste when a commercial food disposal ban goes into effect.
They will be turned into clean energy, officials with the state’s Energy and Environmental Affairs said.
Energy and Environmental Affairs announced a proposed plan that would require any entity that disposes of at least 1 ton of organic waste per week to donate or repurpose the food starting July 1, 2014.
The ban will affect large restaurants, hospitals, universities, hotels and other big businesses and institutions.
The plan calls for food waste to be shipped to a facility that uses anaerobic digestion to covert food waste into a biogas that produces electricity and heat. Or, it can be taken to composting or animal-feed operations. However, state officials are sweetening the pot for the AD option. They are offering $3 million in low-interest loans to private companies building AD facilities that harness the energy in organic waste.
The low-interest loans will be administered by BCD Capital through a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Recycling Loan Fund with monies provided by the Department of Energy Resources.
“Banning commercial food waste and supporting the development of AD facilities across the Commonwealth is critical to achieving our aggressive waste disposal reduction goals,” EEA Secretary Rick Sullivan said in a statement.
Food waste and organics make up 20-25% of the current waste stream going to landfills and incinerators. The proposed food waste ban would help the Commonwealth reach its goals to reduce the waste stream by 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.
The policies and programs also support the state’s commitment to grow its clean energy sector, create jobs and reduce emissions, Sullivan added.
Residential food waste is not included in the ban. MassDEP proposed the commercial food waste ban.
“Many grocery stores and environmentally conscious businesses across the state currently divert their food waste, saving money in the process,” MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell said in a statement. “Diverting food waste to AD facilities creates value by reducing the waste stream, tapping into the energy within food wastes, reducing greenhouse gases, and producing a byproduct that can be resold as fertilizer or animal bedding.”
DOER is also making $1 million available in grants for anaerobic digestion to public entities through MassDEP’s Sustainable Materials Recovery Grant Program. MassDEP and DOER have awarded the first AD grant of $100,000 to the Massachusetts Water Resources Agency for its wastewater treatment plant at Deer Island plant. The MWRA currently digests sludge in 12 large chambers to help run the plant. A pilot project will introduce food waste into one of the chambers to determine the effects of co-digestion on operations and biogas production.
The legislature and the regulatory agencies in Massachusetts have taken important steps to create a positive environment for private companies to make significant investments in the development of AD projects, according to Tony Callendrello, chief operating officer of NEO Energy.
During the AD process, food, yard wastes and other organics are put into an enclosed chamber with no oxygen. Microbes inside the chamber break down the organics, creating a biogas that can produce electricity and heat. The electricity and heat is used in place of fossil fuels, which reduces emissions.
Sen. Gale D. Candaras, chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, said Massachusetts is taking the lead in the nation in innovation through a commercial food waste ban and by funding energy-producing AD facilities.
“Through these dual initiatives, the Commonwealth is paving the way for public-private partnerships to develop a new, environmentally-friendly, renewable energy-producing industry which will not only keep our communities clean but also create jobs and revenue,” Candars said in a statement.
AD facilities have become more popular in Massachusetts in recent years, particularly at dairy farms, municipal landfills and wastewater treatment plants. Over the past year, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) has awarded 18 grants worth $2.3 million to study, design and construct AD and other organics-to-energy facilities in the state.
For more information about AD, go to MassDEP’s website.
While at first this sounds like a great plan, the vision appear cloudy right from the start- “turned into clean energy”?
This is not an energy issue, but a waste management issue. Leave energy out of this and keep the legislation to the standard aerobic composting. Burning methane (and potentially a combination of other compounds) is dangerous, as it’s an explosive greenhouse gas. Composting emits carbon dioxide.
Massachusetts has been using anaerobic digestion since the 1940’s…I wonder why it’s taken 70 years for them to get AD into more active applications.
It’s unfortunate that residential collection isn’t part of the plan, as this would speed up the much-needed public involvement in cutting back on materials hitting the landfill.
While it seems that anything bypassing a landfill must be a good thing, I am urging caution here. Keep the process simple, minimizing greenhouse gases and keeping the focus off of burning byproducts for energy.