All Eyes on Boston: Will the New Commercial Food Waste Ban Lead to a Boom in Waste-to-Energy?

Posted on August 13, 2014
Posted By: Shlomi Palas

At the start of the New Year, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and his Administration announced final statewide commercial food waste disposal ban regulations to take effect on October 1, 2014. The ban will divert food waste to energy-generating and composting facilities and reduce the Commonwealth’s waste stream by 30 percent by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050. Will the implementation of the ban be a model for other states? The answer may be an outstanding, yes!

Although residential/household food materials and food waste from small businesses are not included in the ban, the disposal ban affects approximately 1,700 businesses and institutions, including supermarkets, colleges, universities, hotels, convention centers, hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants, and food service and processing companies

Massachusetts’ new food waste ban, which was a decade in the making, puts the commonwealth among leaders in the United States - the US is behind cities in Canada and Europe, where such organic waste already is collected and converted to good use. In Germany alone, there are 6,800 food waste processing plants.

Boston follows suit from other Northeastern states like New York, Rhode Island Connecticut and Vermont, as well as West Coast cities such as Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, all of which have banned landfill disposal of food waste from large commercial food waste generators.

Anaerobic digestion is a process that puts organic wastes into an enclosed chamber where microbes break down the material, producing an energy-creating biogas. The biogas that remains after the organic materials have been broken down can be put to a variety of uses. It can be used to create heat for industrial processes or fed into a generator to create electricity, or used in a combined heat and power (CHP) system to produce both electricity and heat simultaneously.

“This waste ban helps make anaerobic digestion a real winner for the Patrick Administration’s energy and environmental goals,” said Department of Energy Resources (DOER) Commissioner Mark Sylvia in a prepared statement. “Not only will we keep useful organic materials out of landfills, the output of the AD process will power businesses and enhance our clean energy portfolio.”

Building the Foundation in Boston

To ensure that there will be sufficient facilities to manage the organic material resulting from the ban, the Patrick Administration is working to site composting and AD operations on farms, wastewater treatment plants and other public and private locations by providing technical assistance and up to $1 million in grants. MassDEP and DOER awarded the first AD grant of $100,000 to the Massachusetts Water Resources Agency (MWRA) for its wastewater treatment plant at Deer Island. The MWRA currently processes sludge in 12 massive, egg-shaped digesters and utilizes the biogas created to provide heat and electricity for the plant. A pilot project later this year will introduce food waste into one of the chambers to determine the effects of co-digestion on operations and biogas production.  

The state is putting their money where their waste is:

*$3 million in low-interest loans has been made available to private companies building anaerobic digestion facilities.

*UMass-Amherst has spurred construction of an anaerobic digester at its facility's wastewater treatment plant.

*Feasibility studies were done at two Massachusetts Department of Corrections facilities in Shirley and Norfolk. The Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance was to issue a request pursuing the construction of anaerobic digesters on this state-owned land.

*Several privately owned dairy digesters have begun to accept food waste.

*My own company, Bluesphere has signed a memorandum of understanding with a local developer operating in the recycling and compost business to co-develop a waste-to-energy project in the Boston metropolitan area, with plans of taking advantage of the site’s existing operations to build and operate a 5.2 MW waste-to-energy plant on the same premises.

*Construction has begun at the Crapo Hill Landfill in Dartmouth, Mass., on the CRMC Dartmouth Bioenergy Facility, an anaerobic digestion project developed by CommonWealth Resource Management Corporation in cooperation with the Greater New Bedford Regional Refuse Management District. The Bioenergy Facility will produce biogas for use as a supplemental fuel by an existing 3.3-MW landfill gas-fired electric power generating facility at the landfill. Operation of the Bioenergy Facility at the landfill is expected to enable the District to adapt to changes in the state’s solid waste management regulations regarding food wastes and other organics. 

Boston Strong for the Environment

According to Senator Marc R. Pacheco, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, the commercial food waste ban is just one more way Massachusetts continues to lead the way with solutions that not only save on energy and protect the environment, but also green up the bottom line.  The waste-to -energy plants can be installed and operated both on site in the production or central logistic facility and save the transportation cost or in a separate facility. 
In fact, the projects can be easily implemented by the food companies or by companies such as Bluesphere which is ready to establish and operate these facilities on a Build, Own and Operate basis. No doubt that new technologies to handle the waste create lasting environmental and economic rewards.

It now takes Boston strong type officials and companies to join as a collective force to make it happen across the US. The world turns their eyes again to Boston for strength and resilience to make a change for the better.

Authored By:
Mr. Shlomi Palas, CEO, is a clean-tech executive and entrepreneur with a large network in private and government sectors in North and South America, Europe, China and Africa. Prior to Blue Sphere, he was a business entrepreneur in the biodiesel industry, carrying out activities in China, Brazil and Africa. Earlier, as a Senior Partner at Mitzuv, a leading management consulting firm, Mr. Palas worked in China with the IFC (International

Other Posts by: Shlomi Palas

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August, 13 2014

Ferdinand E. Banks says

This is an important article, because it tells people like myself things that we dont know, but need to know. Assuming that my memory continutes to function, it will be mentioned in the summary chapter of the book that I am working on nowl

I was also glad to see that Germany is working on the use of food waste to obtain energy. I am sure that they are doing a lot of useful things in that country now, however it will not suffice to balance the craziness of Merkel and her gang where nuclear and renewables are concerned.

August, 15 2014

Michael Keller says

Try figuring out how: (1) how much energy is actually available from "waste"; (2) how much it costs to transport the waste to a device ("digester") for making methane; and (3) the cost of the gas presumably used by a boiler or perhaps small gas turbine.

The whole scheme is utterly moronic, but what else do you expect from half-witted liberal Democrats infesting Massachusetts. These are the same fools who want to build off-shore wind turbines while a low-cost clean power supply (hydroelectric) is starring them in the face across the border in Canada. These folks are just plain brain-dead.

August, 19 2014

Richard Vesel says

So you declare it "moronic" without doing any math, eh?

How very typical...

There are over 8000 anaerobic digesters currently in operation in Germany. Mostly for farm waste, but many for other organic waste conversion (not "disposal").

Mr. Keller, what is the cost of transporting GARBAGE to a landfill??? That cost still exists. Why not transpose that cost to transporation to a conversion facility. Net cost differential = 0 Not moronic at all.

Waste Management operates a couple of dozen waste to energy conversion facilities throughout the lower 48 states. These facilities take unsorted municipal waste and burn it in moving grate boilers, generating steam for power, and reducing waste volume by 95%. The major portion of the income for these plants is in collecting trash tipping fees from the "contributors", i.e. they have a negative fuel cost. Anaerobic digestion models are even more profitable than these waster to energy trash burners.

Here is an example profitability and payback analysis for a digestor for dairy farm waste. This is how you "do the math":

You might have better luck doing some research, and dropping the combined gadfly and curmudgeon acts, then provide some useful feedback to the authors here.


August, 19 2014

Michael Keller says

Actually sending garbage to a landfill is kind of why landfills exist.

Are aware that in a number of areas, methane is extracted from large landfills? Economies-of-scale in action. Vastly more cost-effective to send food wastes to the landfill, with the rest of the garbage and use the "industrial scale" digester (AKA the landfill) to extract methane which can be used to drive small gas turbine/generators.

I also know a number of cities employ garbage burners. Those types of furnaces really are not bothered by organic material; its the dopes who put exotic crap (e.g. batteries) in the trash that create mischief.

I suspect a lot of food wastes also end up going down the drain (compliments of garbage disposals) to the sewer plants. Sending oils/greases down the drain is definitely unhelpful for the piping and I suspect the sewage plant as well. Personally, I'm not in favor of sending food wastes to sewer plants, after having had to clean out large drains. Pastas make amazing "plugs". As I recall, garbage disposals are banned in New York City.

Farm wastes are not the topic of the article, which discusses food wastes in Boston. Did not see many farms in Boston the last time I was there.

You might try using common sense as well as basic science, engineering and economics before jumping on the bandwagon for ideas that are, at their very core, just plain dumb.

August, 20 2014

Richard Vesel says

Conversion to methane in anaerobic digestors is much more rapid and efficient, as well as capturing nearly 100% of the methane. Landfill gas "mining" is great too, where it can be put to use.

Maybe a simple enough analogy for you to understand would be this: hunter-gatherer v. cultivation. One is opportunistic, the other is direct and intentional and more intense and efficient. Both work, one is clearly better.

Converting the example calculations to food waste is pretty simple, and could be done for sample areas in a matter of an hour. Food waste will be higher per unit mass in energy content than manure, just for starters. No doubt the mass/volume data already exists within the studies that have already been done.

I am truly amazed at how simplistic your thinking is, and how you want to continuously demonstrate it here. Then, to blame and project your simplistic thinking onto others is revealing. No analysis, just knee-jerk reactions...

August, 20 2014

Michael Keller says

You really need to understand how modern civilizations work, particularly the proven impact of economies-of-scale. Ever wonder why everybody doesn't grow their own food or hunt for their own meat? Ever wonder why folks don't generate all their own power?

Banning commercial "food-wastes" is just plain stupid, but entirely consistent with the liberal "feel-good-but economically-brain-dead" approach to life.

August, 22 2014

Richard Vesel says

It is not a ban on waste, it is a ban on wasting the waste, i.e. throwing it in a landfill. Massachusetts faces a landfill shortage, high tipping fees, and an enormous volume "contribution" by the industry the are addressing. Redirecting that waste stream to a more productive end is in everyone's interest there. It will keep the cost of trash management from skyrocketing due to huge tipping or trash export costs, it will create a new and concentrated source of energy from what once was a burdensome disposal issue, and it will generate jobs and revenue. Hmmmm - how STUPID!

More gadfly thinking, Mr. Keller. When will you stop living in the 19th century?

August, 22 2014

Michael Keller says

The dopey ban on food waste cannot help but drive up the cost of doing business. Food wastes are organic and do not constitute much of an impact on landfills; the stuff rots and breaks down, unlike most of the other trash. Also, the amount of organic waste required to provide meaningful amounts of energy is significant. The elected officials of Boston continue to exhibit the economic stupidity that so characterizes elitist liberals.

PS. I've invented (and patented) a new thermodynamic cycle that will provide power and energy for generations well beyond the 21st century. Have a nice day!

October, 28 2014

fazrin nurhman says

thank you for the information, healthy greeting.

January, 07 2020

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