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Home food waste scraps recycled into biofuel power garbage trucks in Sacramento

Currently in Sacramento an estimated 25 percent of garbage collected from homes in Sacramento is wasted, just tossed in the garbage. You may wish to check out the April 5, 2014 Sacramento Bee article by Ryan Lillis, "Food waste from Sacramento neighborhood will be converted into fuel." But now leftover food waste from homes in Sacramento’s Elmhurst neighborhood is being turned into fuel for garbage trucks.

Food waste scraps recycled into biofuel to power garbage trucks in Elmhurst, a Sacramento neighborhood.
Photo Credit: City of Sacramento website, media release photo.

Whether the leftovers are carbs or proteins, sweets or feasts, it doesn't matter as look as the food is destined for the trash can. A a biodigester wants to convert into biofuel the food scraps from your eating table that you'll eventually trash, along with that plastic bag you received from a food market when you bought your food.

It's hoped that this program in the future will expand to other Sacramento streets. But for now, about 1,000 homeowners in Elmhurst have begun placing food scraps into their backyard waste bins. The refuse will be taken to a high-tech facility where it will be converted into biofuel, explains the Sacramento Bee article.

Under the leadership of Councilmember Kevin McCarty, the City of Sacramento has begun a one-year pilot project to collect food scraps from residents in the Elmhurst neighborhood, and turn the food into fuel

The Recycling and Solid Waste division will collect food waste in the same container as yard waste and deliver it to Republic Services, according to the April 1, 2014 City of Sacramento news release, "City Launches Food to Fuel Pilot – Collects Food Waste from Elmhurst Neighborhood." Republic Services will separate the food from the yard waste, weigh all materials and transport the food scraps to Clean World Partners. Clean World Partners will use a digester to process the food into fuel, which the City uses to power several of its garbage trucks.

“I initiated this pilot project because food waste and organics are a large portion of the City’s waste going to our landfill,” says Council member Kevin McCarty, according to the City of Sacramento news release. "Recycling this food waste and turning it into fuel moves our City toward being greener and smarter."

“This voluntary program will provide the City important data that will help inform future waste disposal efforts,” says Steve Harriman, the City’s Integrated Waste General Manager, according to the City of Sacramento news release. “ We’ll learn the makeup of the types of food and yard waste that will be collected so we can plan for the appropriate types of facilities that could efficiently convert Sacramento’s unique food-yard waste mixture into fuel or other reusable products.” The pilot will be conducted for one year. You can follow the project at its Facebook Elmhurst Food to Fuel site.

Who's behind the effort? Councilman Kevin McCarty launched the one-year test program in Elmhurst

The neighborhood located in midtown Sacramento near the University of California, Davis Medical Center campus, is serviced by a single yard waste collection truck, and that makes it easier for the city to track how many homes are taking advantage of the program. The neighborhood also has a strong communication network, and city officials are hopeful residents will share their experiences.

Better yet, Elmhurst residents don't have to buy their own cans because that area's resideents were recently given small bins to hold the food waste. The city purchased the bins for about $4 apiece. But there are some rules. The food waste has to be put in plastic bags, any type of plastic bags, such as the kind you find at supermarkets and food stores when you get your food bagged at the market check-out counter. You put the plastic bags filled with food scraps in the bins.

You can also store the bags in those bins. Then you drop the food scraps in the plastic bags into the yard waste bins that are collected each week. The program includes any type of food you usually eat. And the food doesn't have to be cooked. It could be those vegetables that went bad after too many days, the yogurt that you didn't want after too long, and the leftovers.

That yard waste goes to a transfer station

At the transfer station, food is separated from lawn trimmings or leaves and any yard waste. The food scraps are shipped to a facility operated by Clean World Partners in Sacramento, CA 95838, and the food gets turned into biofuel in Clean World Partner's biodigester. After the food becomes fuel, the fuel powers waste collection trucks around the region. The the city operates 13 trucks that are fueled at the Clean World Partners facility on Fruitridge Road, according to the Sacramento Bee article. The idea is to recycle food waste and turn it into fuel. It's a green way to make sure nothing goes to waste, not even the food scraps on your table.

CleanWorld is the leading North American innovator in advanced, high-solids anaerobic digestion (HSAD) technology. Based in Sacramento, California, CleanWorld is a subsidiary of Synergex, a global leader in technology for more than 35 years.

How CleanWorld got started

CleanWorld was originally formed in January 2009 as Clean World Partners, LLC to respond to the confluence of technology readiness, consumer behavioral change, and federal and state regulatory mandates that require expanded diversion of waste from landfills, reduction in greenhouse gases, and increased production of renewable energy and transportation fuel. You can check out the UC Davis pilot digester project at the Clean World Partners, LLC website.

Back in January 2009, Clean World Partners, LLC opened its research facility. CleanWorld Partners, LLC originally licensed five technology patents from the University of California, Davis. In January 2011, Synergex Ventures invested in the company, acquiring a controlling interest and assuming management responsibilities.

In May 2011, the company began upgrading the UC Davis Biogas Energy Pilot Plant, which had last been operational in 2009, installing new controls software, piping, and other improvements, according to the Clean World Partners, LLC website. And by March 2012, the company commissioned the first commercial high-solids anaerobic digester in the U.S.—a 4,000 ton per year (TPY) facility at American River Packaging in Sacramento, which provides 30% of the electricity for ARP’s operations.

Sacramento BioDigester

On November 1, 2012, Clean World Partners, LLC was converted to CleanWorld, a California Corporation. In January 2013, CleanWorld commissioned the 10,000 TPY Sacramento BioDigester, at the time the largest HSAD system in North America. At the end of that year, in December 2013, CleanWorld commissioned the 20,000 TPY UC Davis READ facility, diverting campus organic waste from landfills, while producing green electricity for the campus’ microgrid.

CleanWorld is completing a scale-up of the Sacramento BioDigester to 40,000 TPY in the first half of 2014. Once completed, the facility will produce 615,000 diesel gallon equivalents (DGE) annually of renewable natural gas for area truck fleets, according to the Clean World Partner's website.

Approximately 100 cities around the country have some form of food waste collection program, including San Francisco and Portland, Oregon

The new implementation on the block is the food waste that comes from your home rather than from supermarket or restaurant leftovers or unsold food, or food scraps left on plates at restaurants that end up in trash cans or bins. But for now, it's only in that one neighborhood. Perhaps in the future, the waste collection of your table scraps also will extend to your local neighborhood in the Sacramento regional area.

The idea also is referred to as integrated waste, which means collecting food scraps from leftover plates and turning the scraps into biofuel to power garbage trucks. Additionally, the program generates data for the city to measure it's waste disposal strategies and techniques.

The type of data that could come out of your garbage can is for the city to learn more about the types of food waste as well as yard trimmings that are collected. The goal is to find out more about how to plan what type of facilities to build that is capable of efficiently converting Sacramento's food waste and yard trimmings or other yard trash such as leaves into fuel.

In addition to fuel, there could be other reusable products made out of the food garbage. Currently waste such as plastic bottles and paper waste is turned into other products such as fabrics or cardboard and various types of recycled paper products. See, "The Dangers of Recycled Toilet Paper and a Safer Alternative" and "Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide | Greenpeace." Or see, "Toilet paper Buying Guide - Consumer Reports Online" and "Recycled Toilet Paper Not Such a Great Idea After All | The Heal."

For now, the Elmhurst project stays in Elmhurst because the city lacks a facility right now big enough to process food scraps from the more than 100,000 homes in Sacramento. But you can see which way the future is heading, where nothing goes to waste, not even those leftovers in your refrigerator. For further information, check out, "Elmhurst Food to Fuel | Facebook" and "City launches food to fuel pilot - City of Sacramento."

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