In a new measure to regulate food waste in the state, Massachusetts is set to start redistributing and processing food waste in a way that could potentially turn that waste into power, reported On Earth.
Like Connecticut and Vermont, who have enacted similar laws, Massachusetts will next summer begin to redirect food waste to a myriad of different places. The law prohibits places that generate over a ton of food waste a week from simply sending that waste to the dump. Instead, the food waste will be sent to the hungry, producers of stock feed, composters, and anaerobic digesters, which is what will turn the waste into energy.
In anaerobic digestion, organic waste is placed into a tank with bacteria, and as the bacteria consumes the waste, they create sugars, fats, and amino acids. More bacteria is produced and from there, bio-gases like methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and hydrogen are produced, which can then be later used as energy resources. The by-product, digestate, can be used to make fertilizer.
The Environmental Protection Agency said that if half of the nation’s food waste went through the process, the resulting energy could electrically power 2.5 million homes.
“This is a great opportunity for economic growth,” says Patrick Serfass, executive director of the American Biogas Council. “We can recycle the organic waste that makes up 20 to 40 percent of our garbage and turn it into renewable energy.”
Although anaerobic digestion seems like a sound, progressive, and environmentally thoughtful pursuit, the scale and process echoes the American industrial complex, which has some people concerned, as On Earth asserts.
There is worry that government subsidies could create an overly aggressive expansion of the anaerobic digestion industry thus creating an “insatiable appetite for food.” The European Union has shown signs of worry about people growing anaerobic specific-crops. And such an industry already exists with the biofuel industry and have skewed prices for certain crops as a result.