Hello BESTers,

We all know that wasting food is bad, but what are the best alternatives to
landfilling?  Obviously. the best options would be to prevent the food
waste in the first place.  Unfortunately. it is not feasible to prevent all
food waste.  In those cases, we needs options to convert food waste into
usable products.  This article compares three of these options with input
from industry experts.  They examine composting, anaerobic digestion, and
flushing into existing wastewater treatment system.  Each have their own
benefits and setbacks.  Composting, which is the most common in the US, has
the lowest barrier to entry for cost and technology and creates a soil
amendment with many beneficial properties, but does not capture energy from
food waste and can require large amounts of land.   With anaerobic
digestion, energy is able to be captured in the form of biogas, in addition
to nutrients in the food waste.  It is also a scalable technology and
generally requires less land than composting.  However, it can be costly
and difficult to permit as it is still considered an emerging technology in
the US.  The benefit of incorporating food waste into wastewater system is
assuming the treatment plant has an anaerobic digester.  Fortunately,
several communities in the US have these, but most do not.  By combining
food waste with sewage, the end product is not as valuable of fertilizer or
soil amendment as if it were digested separately because biosolids (sewage
sludge) cannot be used in organic agriculture.  Also many of the existing
system may not be optimized to digest food waste, which is a very different
feedstock than sewage or biosolids.

That being said, all options have a very important role to play in the
fight against food waste, and which is best really depends on the
individual community.

Have a great weekend,


3 experts, 3 methods: The debate over food waste processing
Cody Boteler
Waste Dive
September 11, 2017