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Garbage into Power: How the Food Industry is Turning Waste into Biofuels

There’s a lot of focus on producing energy sources that are more sustainable and eco-friendly than traditional sources. At present, roughly 50% of produce in America is thrown away, and wasted food takes up most of the space in landfills. The food industry is doing their part to help turn excess waste into power. Here are some of the ways that the food industry is working to turn excess waste into biofuels.

Reduce and Recycle

Americans throw away a lot of food each year. Much of this food waste is currently going into landfills.  Restaurants have leftover food as well as grease that remains at the end of the day. Some companies take advantage of the need for food and grease collection and take these unwanted items and turn them into something useful instead of sending them to the landfill. By composting or working with companies that recycle instead of simply throw away food and grease waste, these entities in the food industry are taking the first step to turn their waste into biofuels. Recyclers can take the grease and use it to create different types of biofuels that can work to reduce our energy dependence on oil and coal.

Cooking Method

The most popular way to recycle waste is for discarded food items to be transported to a specialized recycling facility. These factories then cook them down under pressure in a process called “hydrothermal liquefaction,” which converts them into a liquid that also generates steam to help reduce their energy costs. The liquid oil from the cooked down food can be purified and turned into biofuel as well. The cooking method pairs with the initiatives to reduce food waste that many restaurants are implementing.

Methane Extraction

The leftover remains after the biofuel has been extracted can be buried. Over time, methane and carbon dioxide will be released from this buried material. The methane can be utilized by piping it out from under the ground to a special treatment facility. It can be converted into electricity to power our homes and cities. This type of product is referred to as biogas and can create a more eco-friendly way to generate energy.

Food waste doesn’t need to be sent to the landfill. There are lots of ways that leftover and rotten organic products can be turned into something good for the environment and the economy for businesses and consumers. And these eco-friendly biofuels save money as well; restaurants can save an estimated $8 for every $1 they invest in exploring food-waste reduction options. By being aware of the alternatives, businesses and restaurants can expand their eco-friendly impact while reducing their carbon footprint.

Brooke Chaplan, the author of this post, is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan

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