Starting in July 2014, when customers eat at a restaurant in Massachusetts, wasted food will not head for the trash, but will be converted into energy via anaerobic digesters, according to plans proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration.
The commercial food waste ban will help the state reduce the volume it sends to landfill and will be in effect for any organization that sends a minimum of 1 ton of organic food waste per week. Under the new rules, such companies will be required to donate or re-purpose the food.
Food waste and organics make up 20 percent to 25 percent of the current waste stream going to landfills and incinerators, Massachusetts says. The proposed food waste ban would help the state reach its goal of reducing the waste stream by 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.
The state has set aside $3 million for low-interest loans to help organizations build anaerobic digesters and another $1 million in grant money for public agencies that will use the digesters.
The Massachusetts Water Resources Agency (MWRA) received the first grant of $100,000 for its wastewater treatment plant. The MWRA currently digests sludge in 12 large chambers to help run the plant. A pilot project will introduce food waste into one of the chambers to determine the effects of co-digestion on operations and biogas production.
Digesters have become more popular in Massachusetts in recent years at facilities like dairy farms, municipal landfills and wastewater treatment plants. Over the past year, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has awarded 18 grants worth $2.3 million to study, design and construct anaerobic digesters and other organics-to-energy facilities across the state.
In other efforts to reduce food waste, General Mills, Unilever and the Food Waste Reduction Alliance last month joined the USDA’s Food Waste Challenge as founding partners. The challenge asks farmers, processors, manufacturers, retailers, communities and government agencies to reduce the volume of food waste sent to landfill, recover wholesome food for human consumption and recycle discards for other uses, such as animal feed, compost or energy generation.
Unilever — along with Coca-Cola Enterprises, AB InBev, Nestlé and 41 other UK retailers, manufacturers and brands — has also committed to reducing food and drink waste by 1.1 million metric tons by 2015 in the third phase of the Courtauld Commitment.
Other UK retailers pursuing food waste include Sainsbury’s, which says surplus food that can’t be used by its charity partners is being processed into animal feed or used to generate energy through anaerobic digestion. Additionally, Sainsbury’s fleet operates on a combination of diesel and biomethane, produced from rotting organic material in landfill.