American Biogas Council
Food Waste

Food wasteIntroduction
Biogas, a renewable substitute for natural gas, is generated by the breakdown of organic waste in an anaerobic digester (AD). Urban waste, including wastewater treatment plants, food waste from households and businesses, yard clippings and non-recyclable paper, will create biogas under the right conditions. (Manure from dairies, and sludge from wastewater treatment plants can also be used.) While many facilities in Europe produce biogas exclusively from food scraps, similar facilities in the US are just now being developed. Biogas can be used to generate electricity and with minimal treatment, can be substituted for traditional natural gas in power plants, homes, vehicles and businesses. The AD process also creates useful byproducts like pathogen-free fertilizer, animal bedding and compost.

Food Waste Quick Facts
  • Food waste from grocery stores, restaurants, cafeterias and homes contains energy and valuable nutrients.

  • 14% of all of our trash is food waste--the most of all non-recycled trash.  That's over 34 million tons--enough to bury the entire island of Manhattan 6 feet deep in food scraps. If not digested, this waste is typically buried in landfills or incinerated. (Source: http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/organics/food/fd-basic.htm )

  • Since high amounts of food waste are generated in high population areas, it is desirable to locate AD facilities close to population centers. During the digestion and production of biogas, the digesters are air tight and emit no odor. Receiving halls and compost bins (parts of the pre- and post- processing) use spaces with biofilters and negatively pressured air which eliminate odors.

  • In addition to the food itself, paper food packaging, cardboard boxes, wax paper, dirty paper towels and other non-recyclable paper can also be digested to create energy.

  • Digesters do not use incineration and therefore do not produce ash or soot.

  • Biogas can be used to make electricity and with minimal treatment, used the same way traditional natural gas is for power plants, homes, vehicles and businesses.
Food Recovery Hiearchy
Food Recovery Hiearchy

How Biogas is Made
Biogas production
Food Waste Generated in the U.S.
Food waste discards

The Biogas Energy project at UC Davis

The Biogas Energy Project at UC Davis
Turning Food Waste into Energy at the East Bay Municipal Utility District

Turning Food Waste into Energy at the East Bay Municipal Utility District

EPA - Food Scraps to Green Energy

Useful Resources
Projects Using Food Waste to Make Biogas
Nearly 1,800 sites in the U.S. make biogas. Here are some that use food waste.

Name [sort]Location [sort]FeedstocksWhat's nearbyBiogas End UseDigestate End Use
Dufferin Organics FacilityToronto, ONFood Waste (Curb-Side P/U)Fueling city vehicles (planned)Gardening
East Bay Municipal Utility DistrictOakland, CAWastewater/Restaurant Food ScrapsIndustrial FacilitiesElectricity
Gills OnionsOxnard, CAFood Waste (onions)Heat and electricity
New Market Organic Processing FacilityNew Market, ONFood Waste
UC-Davis Pilot PlantDavis, CAFood Waste/Manure
University of Wisconsin - OshkoshOshkosh, WIFood Waste / Crop Residuals / Lawn ClippingsCampusHeat and electricity
West Lafayette/PurdueWest Lafayette, INWastewater Biosolids / Food Waste / Fats - oils - greases (FOG)
MillbraeMillbrae, CAWastewater Biosolids / Fats - oils - greases (FOG)Electricity
Old Dutch Potato Chip Co.Roseville, MNFood Waste (potato skins)
Huckabay RidgeStephenville, TXManure (Dairy Cows) / Food Waste (grease and other restaurant waste)Natural Gas Pipeline
Stargest Power LLCElk Mound, WIManure (dairy cows) / Food Waste (high fat)Electricity
Norswiss Digester LLCRice Lake, WIManure (dairy cows) / Food Waste (high fat)Electricity
Buckeye Ridge Renewable Power LLCLa Farge, WIManure (dairy cows) / Food Waste (high fat)Electricity
Santa Monica WWTFSanta Monica, CAFood Waste

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