Waste Not, Want Not
The numbers behind food waste are staggering: grocers throw out some 40% of their wares, and food services and private homes discard another 70%. Much of this waste goes into landfills where it rots and produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Added to this, food and waste is often trucked hundreds of miles consuming precious fossil fuels in the process.
Harvest Power’s Energy Garden, a new composting facility in Richmond, BC, flips this problem on its head. It boasts the largest solids anaerobic digester in North America, turning food scraps (such as those collected through the Green Bin and Trashtalk programs) and yard trimmings into biogas. The digester produces biogas which fuels a turnbine generating electricity for some 900 homes. The ‘waste product’ is hundreds of thousands of tonnes of nutrient rich soil that is used in local gardens and farms.
This is the first of a promising trend in the region. Learning from countries like Sweden and Germany, Metro Vancouver is pursuing a policy of Integrated Resource Recovery: “enabling the ‘waste’ from one system to become ‘resources’ for another.” The City of Surrey has similar plans to create an Organic Biofuel Facility. The facility offers a poetic solution, fueling the City’s collection trucks with renewable biogas generated from the very waste they collect. Projects like these echo a popular motto from the German waste industry: ‘waste is a raw material in the wrong place.’
Where else might we find solutions disguised as problems?