In developing countries the majority of food losses occur at the farm level, particularly during storage, where food is often ‘lost’ after it has been harvested. In the developed world, however, food is most often ‘wasted’ when it is thrown away by retailers and consumers.
World Environment Day, the theme being food loss and food waste, got us thinking about practical ways we can reduce the amount of food we throw away. In developing countries the majority of food losses occur at the farm level, particularly during storage, where food is often ‘lost’ after it has been harvested. In the developed world, however, food is most often ‘wasted’ when it is thrown away by retailers and consumers.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimated that some 32% of all food produced in the world in 2009 was lost or wasted. The World Resources Institute converted this figure from food weight to food calories and found that some 24% of food is lost or wasted, that’s 1 in 4 food calories that are never consumed. As the Institute points out it is not just a loss of food but a loss of money and a waste…
Though lots of attention and encouragement has been given to composting and donating leftover food, the first step we can take is to reduce the amount of food produced. Reducing food portions will help immensely and play an important role lessening the waste. Not only is it a good cost control measure to do an inventory of all of your food products, but it will also ensure that perishable food does not go bad before you get to use it. By putting in place and respecting an organized inventory process, waste of easily perishable food can go down. This will also help in reducing food costs greatly.
Every year, 475 pounds of food waste is produced by the average person adding up to more than 70 million tons in our landfills. Not only does the waste attract vermin, it emits odors and liquids that are toxic to the environment. As a result, the methane gas generated from the waste is 20 to 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Food waste has become a big issue in all types of businesses.
This is especially true in the hospitality industry. Haute cuisine, all you can eat buffets, and in room dining are all an integral part of the hospitality experience. But what happens to all the leftovers once guests are done eating? Most of it will be hauled off to landfills at a great cost to the establishment and an even greater cost to the environment.
Our report will look at and provide statistics on…
Rather than sitting in a landfill, organic wastes such as food leftovers are put into anaerobic digesters that produce biogas rich in methane. This biogas can be used as fuel for heat and power generation, and the stuff that’s leftover can be used as composting material.
Americans throw away about 30% of all food produced domestically each year, and since at least 8% of the U.S. energy budget goes towards bringing food to tables across the country, energy waste is closely tied to food waste . In fact, all of that wasted food equates to about 350 million barrels of oil per year .
The energy embedded in food waste comes from many sectors of the food industry: production, transportation, storage, and preparation. Since food waste is a cultural problem, it is not likely that it will stop any time soon. A better solution to waste prevention could be to take advantage of the energy potential of food in our landfills. Rather than sitting in a landfill, organic wastes such as food leftovers are put into anaerobic digesters that produce biogas rich in methane . This biogas can be used as fuel for heat and power…
Animal waste may become our next source of green energy.
Private corporations in the U.K. have begun investing big bucks to convert leftover food and animal byproducts into a new source of green energy that produces electricity and cuts costs.
Marketplace BBC World Service recently reported that big U.K. chains such as Walmart and Tesco are now actively running some of their stores on electricity converted from leftover foods.
Fish heads, old lamb chops, stale sandwiches, and chicken fat represent just a few of the food waste products whose biogas can be burned to create electricity.
How do you get electricity from stale sandwiches?
Basically speaking, large vats of rotting organic waste ferment in the absence of oxygen in a kind of biogenic bath. Fermentation produces biogases, such as methane, which can be burned to run the machinery that generates green electricity. Anyone who’s kept a compost pile knows that…
According to the UN study quoted in the first entry on this blog, consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia throw away an average of 13 to 24 pounds of food a year – which, compared to the 210 to 250 pounds of food the average North American or European consumer throws away each year, is amazing.
As I was in Singapore in March, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to do a little research into food waste there. The first thing I wanted to figure out was if Singapore, with the (by far) highest GDP per capita in Southeast Asia, was typical for the region when it comes to food waste. I wasn’t able to find any rigorous studies on household food waste per capita. What I did find was a two-week study of 150 families that found that the average household food waste…
Anaerobic digestion, which is commonly used to treat wastewater solids, naturally produces methane as it breaks down organic matter. Harnessing methane to produce heat, electric power or biofuel (also known as biomethane)—and offset facility power needs— is becoming an important energy management option.
Divert organic matter – stuff made from plants and animals, such as food waste and yard clippings – away from landfills and transform it into energy is one of the methods that will bring great results. That reduces greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and turns trash into a substantial source of clean energy.
Successfully harnessing energy from organic waste will help the DoD and other agencies meet U.S. federal regulations that require renewable energy sources—7 percent by 2013, as mandated by the 2005 Energy Policy Act, and 25 percent by 2025, as mandated by the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act.
Food waste is an untapped energy source that mostly ends up rotting in landfills, thereby releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Food waste is difficult to treat or recycle since it contains high levels of sodium salt and moisture, and is mixed with other waste during collection. Major generators of food wastes include hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, residential blocks, cafeterias, airline caterers, food processing industries, etc.
In United States, food waste is the third largest waste stream after paper and yard waste. Around 12.7 percent of the total municipal solid waste (MSW) generated in the year 2008 was food scraps that amounted to about 32 million tons. According to EPA, about 31 million tons of food waste was thrown away into landfills or incinerators in 2008. As far as United Kingdom is concerned, households throw away 8.3 million tons of food each year. These statistics are an indication of tremendous amount of food waste generated all over the world.
The proportion of food waste in municipal waste stream is gradually increasing and hence a proper food waste management strategy needs to be devised to ensure its eco-friendly and sustainable disposal. Food waste can be recycled via:
In-vessel composting (IVC): A treatment that breaks down biodegradable waste by naturally occurring micro-organisms with oxygen, in an enclosed vessel or tunnel;
Anaerobic digestion (AD): A treatment that breaks down biodegradable waste in the absence of oxygen, producing a renewable energy (biogas) that can be used to generate electricity and heat.
Currently, only about 3 percent of food waste is recycled throughout U.S., mainly through composting. Composting provides an alternative to landfill disposal of food waste, however it requires large areas of land, produces volatile organic compounds and consumes energy. Consequently, there is an urgent need to explore better recycling alternatives. Anaerobic digestion has been successfully used in several European and Asian countries to stabilize food wastes, and to provide beneficial end-products. Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Germany and England have led the way in developing new advanced biogas technologies and setting up new projects for conversion of food waste into energy.
Of the different types of organic wastes available, food waste holds the highest potential in terms of economic exploitation as it contains high amount of carbon and can be efficiently converted into biogas and organic fertilizer. Food waste can either be used as a single substrate in a biogas plant, or can be co-digested with organic wastes like cow manure, poultry litter, sewage, crop residues, abattoir wastes, etc.
According to a recent study, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region offers almost 45 percent of the world’s total energy potential from all renewable sources that can generate more than three times the world’s total power demand. Apart from solar and wind, MENA also has abundant biomass energy resources which have remained unexplored to a great extent. According to conservative estimates, the potential of biomass energy in the Euro Mediterranean region is about 400TWh per year. Around the region, pollution of the air and water from municipal, industrial and agricultural operations continues to grow. The technological advancements in the biomass energy industry, coupled with the tremendous regional potential, promises to usher in a new era of energy as well as environmental security for the region.
The major biomass producing countries are Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Jordan. Traditionally, biomass energy has been widely used in rural areas for domestic purposes in the MENA region, especially in Egypt, Yemen and Jordan. Since most of the region is arid or semi-arid, the biomass energy potential is mainly contributed by municipal solid wastes, agricultural residues and industrial wastes.
Municipal solid wastes represent the best source of biomass in Middle East countries. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait rank in the top-ten worldwide in terms of per capita solid waste generation. The gross urban waste generation quantity from Middle East countries is estimated at more than 150 million tons annually. Food waste is the third-largest component of generated waste by weight which mostly ends up rotting in landfill and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The mushrooming of hotels, restaurants, fast-food joints and cafeterias in the region has resulted in the generation of huge quantities of food wastes.
In Middle East countries, huge quantity of sewage sludge is produced on daily basis which presents a serious problem due to its high treatment costs and risk to environment and human health. On an average, the rate of wastewater generation is 80-200 litres per person each day and sewage output is rising by 25 percent every year. According to estimates from the Drainage and Irrigation Department of Dubai Municipality, sewage generation in the Dubai increased from 50,000 m3 per day in 1981 to 400,000 m3 per day in 2006.
The food processing industry in MENA produces a large number of organic residues and by-products that can be used as biomass energy sources. In recent decades, the fast-growing food and beverage processing industry has remarkably increased in importance in major countries of the region. Since the early 1990s, the increased agricultural output stimulated an increase in fruit and vegetable canning as well as juice, beverage, and oil processing in countries like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
The MENA countries have strong animal population. The livestock sector, in particular sheep, goats and camels, plays an important role in the national economy of respective countries. Many millions of live ruminants are imported each year from around the world. In addition, the region has witnessed very rapid growth in the poultry sector. The biogas potential of animal manure can be harnessed both at small- and community-scale.
Anaerobic digestion is the most important method for the treatment of organic waste because of its techno-economic viability and environmental sustainability. The use of anaerobic digestion technology generates biogas and preserves the nutrients which are recycled back to the agricultural land in the form of slurry or solid fertilizer. The relevance of biogas technology lies in the fact that it makes the best possible utilization of various organic wastes as a renewable source of clean energy. A biogas plant is a decentralized energy system, which can lead to self-sufficiency in heat and power needs, and at the same time reduces environmental pollution. Thus, anaerobic digestion of food waste can lead to climate change mitigation, economic benefits and landfill diversion opportunities.
Of the different types of organic wastes available, food waste holds the highest potential in terms of economic exploitation as it contains high amount of carbon and can be efficiently converted into biogas and organic fertilizer. Food waste can either be utilized as a single substrate in a biogas plant, or can be co-digested with organic wastes like cow manure, poultry litter, sewage, crop residues, abattoir wastes etc.
Food waste is one of the single largest constituent of municipal solid waste stream. Diversion of food waste from landfills can provide significant contribution towards climate change mitigation, apart from generating revenues and creating employment opportunities. Rising energy prices and increasing environmental pollution makes it more important to harness renewable energy from food wastes. Anaerobic digestion technology is widely available worldwide and successful projects are already in place in several European as well as Asian countries which makes it imperative on waste generators and environmental agencies to root for a sustainable food waste management system.
The waste management hierarchy suggests that reduce, reuse and recycling should always be given preference in a typical waste management system. However, these options cannot be applied uniformly for all kinds of wastes. For examples, organic waste is quite difficult to deal with using the conventional 3R strategy. Of the different types of organic wastes available, food waste holds the highest potential in terms of economic exploitation as it contains high amount of carbon and can be efficiently converted into biogas and organic fertilizer.
There are numerous places which are the sources of large amounts of food waste and hence a proper food-waste management strategy needs to be devised for them to make sure that either they are disposed off in a safe manner or utilized efficiently. These places include hotels, restaurants, malls, residential societies, college/school/office canteens, religious mass cooking places, airline caterers, food and meat processing industries and vegetable markets which generate organic waste of considerable quantum on a daily basis.
The anaerobic digestion technology is highly apt in dealing with the chronic problem of organic waste management in urban societies. Although the technology is commercially viable in the longer run, the high initial capital cost is a major hurdle towards its proliferation. The onus is on the governments to create awareness and promote such technologies in a sustainable manner. At the same time, entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations and environmental agencies should also take inspiration from successful food waste-to-energy projects in other countries and try to set up such facilities in Indian cities and towns.