Dane County wants to turn scrap food into energy

Posted on December 28, 2009. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters |


From an article by Dee Hall in The Capital Times:

Discarded food would be collected and turned into energy under a proposal announced Monday by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk.

The project would be one of the first in the United States to use municipal food waste to generate energy, according to Troy Runge, director of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, a state-funded program based at the UW-Madison.

The county is seeking a consultant to design a system that would make use of the 30,000 tons of food waste from homes, businesses and institutions disposed of annually in the Dane County Landfill, which gets about 200,000 tons of material a year. Falk said the project could bring in $4 million a year in revenue and create 45 jobs.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls food waste “one of the least recovered materials in the municipal solid waste stream” and “one of the most important materials to divert from landfills” because it generates methane, a major greenhouse gas. The EPA said food waste is the second-largest contributor to landfills after paper.

Dane County already captures methane from the county landfill and a closed landfill in Verona and burns it to generate electricity, which it sells to Madison Gas & Electric. That arrangement has been around since 1997.

The project announced Monday seeks to segregate food from the rest of the waste stream. The material would be digested at up to three plants around Dane County, according to the request for proposals issued by Dane County last week.

Falk said the project would use discarded fruits, vegetables, meat and other perishables to create methane, which in turn would either be converted into natural gas or burned to generate electricity. The leftover organic material would be packaged for use as fertilizer.

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