Food gives you gas...biogas!
Project Need: Food scraps are treated as waste and could be used for energy and resources.
- United States Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) continues to grow annually. Between 1980 and 2008, MSW grew from 3.66 to 4.50 pounds per person per day (USEPA 2009). Most of this waste ends up in landfills.
- While the recycling rate of MSW has also increased from 10 to 33 percent of MSW generated, only certain items are recycled and there is still much potential for recycling to expand (USEPA 2009).
- Organic waste in the form of food is a large component of the United States MSW stream. In 2008, food waste made up 12.7%, 32 million tons, of the 250 million tons of MSW (US EPA 2009). Of all sources of MSW recycled or recovered, the smallest proportion is food waste, a meager 0.8 million tons, 2.5% out of 33.2% (US EPA 2009).
- When microorganisms decompose food waste methane gas is produced; this gas can be harvested for its power and heat (Wilke 2006). Thus, organic waste diversion can have a twofold benefit: it has the greatest potential for waste reduction in landfills and energy generation.
Project Vision: The goal of our project was to lay the groundwork necessary to have an anaerobic digester and biogas system built on campus within the next few years through educational outreach and a feedstock assessment study. By educating as many people as possible about the many benefits of biogas and anaerobic digestion, we move society toward the greater goal of using waste for energy! The feedstock assessment study will inform the campus architects and engineers who will design the new campus building and biogas system for the school.
- Independently researched biogas and case studies of anaerobic digesters in the U.S.
- Created a powerpoint presentation about food waste, anaerobic digestion and biogas, for use as an educational tool
- Presented and explained benefits of utilizing biogas from food waste in our dining facilities as a source of energy for future campus buildings to University Administrators
- Proposed and discussed the construction of an anaerobic digester to a group of campus architects and engineers
Feedstock Assessment Study:
- Created a Food Waste Analysis protocol
- Recruited volunteers via class announcements and a Facebook event page
- Met with volunteers on March 22, 2010, to discuss the study, explain protocols, and assign shifts
- Conducted Food Waste Analysis in Lakeshore Dining Hall from March 25-31, 2010
- Calculated the quantity of food wasted per day (in pounds) and food waste source distribution for Lakeshore Dining Hall
- Used results in posters and presentations to emphasize the importance of a more efficient waste disposal method and the construction of a sustainable anaerobic digester on Loyola’s campus
- Passed on data and results to IES staff to use as a launching point for future biogas, food waste, and sustainability projects
- University Administrators, architects and engineers requested an assessment of the quantity of food waste generated by the campus dining hall on a weekly basis in order to access the feasibility of installing an anaerobic digester
- The total weight of the food waste for the week was 1972.8 lbs, about 281.8 lbs of food waste per day
- The largest percentage of food waste came from the plate waste leftovers, 808 lbs and 41% of the total food waste weight
- Student and university projects are the beginnings of major programs
US EPA. 2006. Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2008. Washington DC.
Wilkie, A.C. 2006. The other bioenergy solution: the case for converting organics to biogas. Eng Technol Sustainable World 13(8): 11-12.