Over One Billion Tonnes of Food Waste Can Be Used to Produce Biogas and Biomethane

By | 2023-07-20

It is estimated that 1.3 billion tonnes of food are lost or wasted across the globe and to curb this, countries have begun implementing landfill organics bans and instead utilise these wastes streams to produce green energy and nutrient rich fertiliser.

The US alone discards approximately 60.3 million tonnes of food per year (U.N. Environment, 2017), while EU is not far behind, with estimated 59 million tonnes of wasted food (European Commission). In an effort to curb the landfilling of these materials, jurisdictions at all levels have initiated the processes of banning organic materials from landfills and promoting their collection via green bin programs. In the United States, 9 states have implemented food waste collection mandates (American Biogas Council, 2018), and in Canada, it is estimated that over 70% of the population lives in areas with a curbside organics collection program in-place (Waste360, 2022). In the EU, although most member countries have already legislated food waste diversion plans, all members will be obliged to introduce separate collection programs for green and kitchen wastes by 2024.

To address this issue, in North America, digesters dedicated to source-separated organics have increased significantly in recent years and are scheduled to double in number by 2025. The American Biogas Council estimates that there are 97 digesters across the US digesting food wastes (American Biogas Council), while in Canada there are 21, with over 30 more at various stages of development. In Europe, notable or developing markets for food waste digestion include the United Kingdom, with 87 sites (WRAP. AD and Composting Industry Market Survey Report 2020), Spain with 53 sites, Italy with 47 sites (WBA, 2018), and Germany with 218 sites (Waste 360, 2022).

There have been numerous projects of notice in recent years in the field of source-separated organics digestion and co-digestion of food waste. In Europe, leaders in the area include Botres Global, who have developed one of Europe’s largest organic waste recovery facilities in Este, Italy. The facility processes 265,000 t/y of organic waste and produces approximately 8 MW of electricity with the resulting biogas (Botres Global). Another, emerging leader within the European market is Antec Biogas, who in 2020, commissioned the world’s northernmost biogas plant in Båtsfjord, Norway. The facility co-digests the community’s food wastes with fish waste and cow manure (Antec Biogas, 2020).

The digestion of food wastes in North America has been lagging as compared to that of Europe, however, great strides forward have been made in recent years. One company bringing forward this development in the continent is Anaergia, who developed the continent’s largest organic waste to energy facility with the Rialto Bioenergy Facility in Rialto, California. This site accepts up to 700 t/d of organic waste and converts the material into 1,000,000 MMBtu/y of RNG (Anaergia).

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About the Author

Ryan Hart is the Renewable Energy Analyst at BiogasWorld. He specializes in market intelligence for biogas and RNG markets in the North America and Europe. You can contact him at info@biogasworld.com