Food Waste to Energy: New Energy Solution

Food Loss

The world needs to be cleared up from all the waste materials we are putting in it. Recycling different products can add up to a bigger picture of this little dream called a “better world”. No waste should go “just wasted”. While food waste is a major addition to the world’s pollution however using food waste to make energy can create a noticeable difference.
Plenty of food products get wasted each day while there are people who can’t even afford basic food. The food wastage includes leftovers of organic waste like eggshells, stems, and peels. All of this is dumped into the garbage where they rot and decompose and a lot of methane gas is generated in the process. Methane gas is known for the greenhouse effect and is one of the major reasons responsible for climatic changes.

What does food waste to energy mean and how it works?

The different appliances that can use food waste converted energy
Image sourced from saveonenergy.com
Now imagine all that food waste actually being used for something beneficial. Converting food waste into energy means using the food waste to generate and collect methane gas that can later be used as a biofuel via a process called anaerobic digestion (Converting Your Food Waste Into Energy).
Although the raw methane gas leaked into the environment can affect climatic conditions adversely. However, controlling its use has plenty of benefits. Methane is biogas that has more ” warmth locking potential” than carbon dioxide. So it can produce more heat energy than carbon products thus limiting the use of carbon as a source of energy.

How to Convert food waste to energy

To convert food waste to energy, the waste is collected and cleared from plastics or other non-decomposing materials (Wale Recycles). Then it is delivered into closed tanks where microorganisms break down the food in an oxygen-free environment via anaerobic digestion. Then the food waste turns into fertilizer and methane gas is produced during the process. This methane gas is collected and converted into heat or electrical energy which can be used to power up our buildings and appliances.
Only using the anaerobic decomposition technique would take days to complete the process. So to make it more efficient hydrothermal processing is used. It converts food waste to energy more effectively and reduces the time and cost used to convert biomass into energy. After the release of biogases, the remaining mixture serves as the best fertilizer for crops.
Converting one lorry of food waste into energy produces enough energy to light up 20 thousand televisions for one hour (FRIEDLANDER-CORNELL). Imagine how much fuel can be generated by handling food waste efficiently.
This process of converting food waste into energy may seem an easy deal. In reality, to implement this on a larger scale, both governments and organizations need to work hand in hand.

Which food waste can be used to extract biofuel?

We need to understand that food is wasted not only after use but even at harvest level. The food waste that can be used to create biofuel and fertilizers are

  • Extra food grown and stored by farmers.
  • Food wasted because of weak infrastructure or resource limitations.
  • Wasted food through Poor handling and processing.
  • Restaurants leftovers.
  • Food bought and dumped by consumers.

The technologies used in turning food waste into energy

Developed nations are adopting different techniques to convert food waste to energy. Few of such technologies that are efficient to convert food waste into energy are

  • Incineration: It is the disposal of wastage through the burning process.
  • Pyrolysis and gasification:Is the decomposition of organic waste through thermal processes in a controlled environment (What is pyrolysis process?).
  • Hydrothermal carbonization: Is a thermochemical process to treat biomass with hot water.

How Biogas is made and how is it useful?

Chart showing the amount of waste and how much energy they can be converted into
Image sourced from saveonenergy.com
Biogas is generated through the decomposition of organic waste. Food wastes when decomposed anaerobically, produce a mixture of gases that can be further broken down to generate electricity or heat energy. This is done in four steps.

  1. In the first stage, called hydrolysis, the carbohydrates in food waste are broken down so that bacteria can work on it at the next stage.
  2. In the second step, bacterias produce a mixture of gases during a process along with organic acid.
  3. These organic acids are further converted into acetic acid, ammonia, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide.
  4. In the fourth stage, these components are converted into usable energy, biogas.

Biogas produces blue flame and is equivalent to natural gas. It can be used as fuel or for any heating purpose.
With regulated use, biogas is environmentally friendly and provides a better way to handle waste dumps too. A lot of garbage can be made useful by extracting biogas from it.
Biogas helps in reducing carbon consumption and drives us on the road towards a low carbon society.

How transforming food waste into energy is the best solution?

Food Waste to energy can be a great solution
The growing population increased wastage, and pollution problems need to be addressed.
Increased food waste means increased pollution. Pollution brings drastic climatic changes and greater environmental issues. Recycling food waste to produce biogas is a step towards a healthy planet where we can live safely and sound.
Biogas is a practical solution to the problems. Using biogas as a source of energy helps in creating a safer and greener planet thus ensuring the sustainable survival of this planet.

Summary of Food Waste to Energy

Converting food waste to energy is a modern and advanced solution to handling organic waste. There are different technologies available to convert food waste into energy such as decomposing and fermenting waste anaerobically to create biofuel. Adopting such sustainable practices will be beneficial for the planet as it will reduce the number of pollutants in our environment.
Find out more about food waste and the effects it has on our planet. Or learn about other ways we can deal with food waste, such as upcycling food waste.

Resources:
“Converting Your Food Waste Into Energy.” SaveOnEnergy.com, www.saveonenergy.com/food-power-per-hour/.
FRIEDLANDER-CORNELL, BLAINE. “’Pressure Cook’ Food Waste to Make Fuel Faster.” Futurity, 20 June 2017, www.futurity.org/food-waste-biofuel-1464012/.
Pham, Thi Phuong Thuy, et al. “Food Waste-to-Energy Conversion Technologies: Current Status and Future Directions.” Science Direct, 30 Dec. 2014, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0956053X14005819.
“What Is Pyrolysis Process?” Bio-Green Energy, www.biogreen-energy.com/what-is-pyrolysis/.
“Your Food Waste Is Recycled into Energy to Power Your Student Living.” Wales Recycle, walesrecycles.org.uk/recycling-knowledge/turning-welsh-waste-energy/sites/files/recyclenow/9.3.5%20How%20Anaerobic%20Digestion%20works%20English.pdf.
               
Author: Monica Chang
On my own ethical journey since 2010. Always happy to learn more!