It is estimated that 40% of food is lost or wasted across the food system lifecycle – from the farm, to the retailer/restaurant, to the consumer. Based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent findings in the United States (US), 133 billion pounds of food is thrown away annually. The production of methane in landfills is the 3rd largest source of atmospheric methane in the US. A projected 137.7 million tons of municipal solid waste ends up in landfills each year. Transporting waste across long distances to disparate landfills causes greenhouse gas pollution and traffic congestion. This very same waste, nearly 60 million tons of it, could be diverted from landfills and used as a feedstock with our Anaerobic Digestion (AD) technology.
AD is a key feature of our solution set. The ITility Research and Engineering Activity (IREA) provides optimized AD systems that make it possible to extract energy from organic waste. AD creates a carbon-neutral system where waste becomes the source of energy-rich methane. Our small format systems, designed to service localized communities and installations, eliminates transport and disposal costs while creating renewable energy from waste. AD uses a series of processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. When integrated in a waste management system, AD reduces the emission of pollutants into the atmosphere, normally associated with decaying waste in landfills. Two outputs from the AD process are a nutrient-rich digestate, usable as fertilizer, and methane rich gas, commonly known as biogas. Biogas can be combusted in a Combined Heat Powered (CHP) engine to create electricity. In addition to the electricity, a large amount of heat energy is also produced which can be utilized to support system processes or diverted to other onsite functions. In addition to landfill waste, animal waste significantly contributes to the methane content in our atmosphere. For example, the EPA discovered that within a year about 58 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent was created only from the decomposition of animal manure. This is not accounting for the additional greenhouse gas emitted by domestic animal and human waste decomposition. The effect of animal waste on the environment goes further than only methane production. Besides affecting the atmosphere, high amounts of animal waste can lead to devastating amounts of nitrogen, ammonia, phosphorous, and sulfur in our environment causing local vegetation to perish.