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
September 11, 2017