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Food Waste Vibrant Environment Blog Posts

Sustainable Business Models for Codigesting Food Waste

Creating Energy from Food Waste (EPA/Flickr)
By Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Monday, March 19, 2018

The wastewater sector’s “Utility of the Future” (UOTF) initiative envisions the sector’s transformation from managing waste to recovering and recycling valuable resources, thereby creating financial benefits for utilities, as well as environmental and economic development benefits for communities. Adding food waste to anaerobic digesters (AD) processing sewage sludge, a process called codigestion, is a promising UOTF innovation that expands the sector’s potential to recover renewable biogas for heat, power, and fuel, and to extract nutrients for fertilizers and soil amendments.

Yet, U.S. adoption of codigestion remains low: about 1 in 10 wastewater resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) have adopted AD, and about 1 in 10 of those is codigesting. To address this untapped potential, ELI has launched a new project to identify alternative sustainable business models for successful codigestion.

Analyzing the Food Rescue Landscape in Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee (Wikimedia Commons)
By Emmett McKinney, Research Associate, JoAnne Berkenkamp, Senior Advocate, Food & Agriculture Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney
Monday, November 20, 2017

Some say leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving. While that may be true, the rest of the year, there are ample missed opportunities to donate surplus prepared foods from institutions and restaurants. Realizing these opportunities is an important way to waste less food and feed more people, because up to 40% of food (along with the water, energy, and land used in production) goes to waste every year in the United States. At the same time, over 13% of Americans—one in eight—experience food insecurity.

FOOD WASTE: Onsite Food Waste Pre-processing Systems: Is Recycling Really Happening?

By Taz [CC BY 2.0 (http:/creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia C
By Christopher Wright, Research and Publications Intern, and Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Recycling food waste through composting and anaerobic digestion has the greatest potential by far to reduce the quantity of food waste going to landfills over the next 15 years relative to food waste reduction and reuse, according to ReFED. However, as more cities and states institute landfill food waste bans and other programs to promote recycling, the demand for centralized organic processing facilities is outpacing the supply. To address the gap, vendors are actively marketing to commercial customers new onsite pre-processing systems, including dehydrators, pulpers, and biodigesters. The systems can save money by reducing or eliminating off-site hauling of food waste and are well suited to facilities short on space and staff time. But the question arises: are the nutrients and energy in food waste really being recycled?  The answer depends upon the next stage of processing.

FOOD WASTE: “Smart Technology” Promises to Revolutionize Recycling

Enevo Sensor System
By Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar, Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney, and Emmett McKinney, Research Associate
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Imagine the dumpsters behind restaurant row in your community signaling their hauling company to come pick them up because they are full and about to overflow, or their food is rotting and about to stink up the neighborhood. Such are the promises for waste management of new “smart technologies,” based on sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, big data, and social networks.

FOOD WASTE: Food Donation Receives a Technology Boost

smart phone and food
By Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney, Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar, and Emmett McKinney, Research Associate
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

In a Vibrant Environment blog post on February 17, 2017, we provided an overview of the types of approaches that cities and states can use to address the environmental and social justice implications of wasting 40%  of the food that is produced in the United States. We addressed reducing food waste before it happens, but because that is not always possible, we turn now to the next best alternative—rescuing or donating wasted food.

FOOD WASTE: City and State Strategies for Source Reduction

Farmers Market Produce
By Emmett McKinney, Research Associate, Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney, and Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Monday, February 20, 2017

Strategies for cities and states to reduce food waste can be thought of through the lens of the “Three Rs” of EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy—reduction, reuse, and recycling. In food waste terms, the Three Rs mean preventing wasted food at the source, donating wasted food leftovers, and recycling food waste through composting or anaerobic digestion.

The recent ReFED report on reducing food waste quantifies the economic value and diversion potential of different strategies related to each of the Three Rs. According to ReFED, source reduction and donation generate the most economic value per ton of food saved, while food recycling and composting have the potential to divert a much greater quantity of food from landfills.

FOOD WASTE: From The Ground Up: How Cities and States Can Be Leaders in Food Waste Reduction

Food scraps, Tim Jewett
By Emmett McKinney, Research Associate, Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney, and Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency announced an ambitious goal of reducing food waste in the United States by 50% by 2030. While the change in presidential administrations presents new obstacles for many federal environmental initiatives, reducing food waste continues to offer fertile ground for cooperation.