How Food Waste Can Have a Positive Impact on the RNG Sector

Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) is a form of energy derived from organic materials – with the main sources typically being agricultural waste, municipal waste and plant material. As the sector grows, however, we’re seeing food waste becoming a leading source – a shift that can positively impact the RNG industry in several ways.

In one of his recent interviews with Janis Gertmanis, Patrick Serfass highlighted the importance that food waste will play in the wider growth of the US RNG sector, reinforced by the rising number of food waste plants being built across the country.

While landfill, wastewater and agricultural RNG plants still make up the largest number of RNG facilities in the US, we’re increasingly seeing big players in the sector build infrastructure designed to harness food waste. Only this month, SJI and Captona announced plans to build the largest food waste-to-RNG facilities in the country, capable of processing up to 1,475 tonnes of waste and turning it into energy.

Patrick also highlighted a second important point – the average person may not even know what RNG is and the benefits it can deliver in terms of combatting both food waste and challenges with renewable energy supply.

The concept of turning food waste into energy is easier to understand by the general populace, especially since most homes and businesses deal with food waste every day. The introduction of food waste bins across the nation could directly support education around the concept, in a similar way to recycling and plastic usage.

Likewise, more education around food waste-to-RNG can help local communities understand the benefits of these plants, reduce resistance to construction projects, power local businesses and increase employment.

So what other benefits does food waste offer?

Biogas Production

Food waste, particularly organic materials like kitchen scraps and leftovers, can be used to produce biogas through anaerobic digestion. During this process, microorganisms break down the organic matter in the absence of oxygen, producing methane-rich biogas. This methane can be captured and utilized as a renewable natural gas.

Increased Feedstock Availability

Food waste provides a reliable and abundant source of feedstock for RNG production. As long as there is food consumption, there will be waste generated. This consistent stream of organic material ensures a stable and continuous supply for the RNG industry.

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Environmental Benefits

Utilizing food waste for RNG production helps address environmental concerns associated with landfill disposal of organic waste. When organic waste decomposes in landfills, it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. By diverting food waste to RNG production, the industry helps mitigate these emissions and turns them into a useful energy source.

Waste Reduction and Resource Recovery

Incorporating food waste into the RNG industry promotes a circular economy model. Rather than considering food waste as a problem, it is transformed into a valuable resource. This approach contributes to waste reduction, as it encourages the recovery of energy from materials that would otherwise be discarded.

Nearly one-third of the world’s food supply is wasted each year and food waste-to-energy production is a direct way of turning this challenge into a benefit.

Localized Energy Production

RNG production from food waste can be localized, reducing the need for long-distance transportation of energy resources. This decentralization contributes to energy resilience and minimizes the environmental impact associated with the transportation of conventional fuels.

Diversification of Energy Sources

Including food waste in RNG production diversifies the sources of renewable energy. This diversity is crucial for building a more resilient and sustainable energy infrastructure, reducing dependence on finite fossil fuel resources.

Support for Circular Economy

Incorporating food waste into the RNG industry aligns with the principles of a circular economy, where resources are reused and recycled. By extracting energy from food waste, the industry supports the concept of closing the loop on material flows and minimizing waste.

In summary, food waste can have a positive impact on the RNG industry by providing a consistent and abundant source of feedstock, reducing environmental impacts associated with waste disposal, and contributing to the development of a more sustainable and circular economy.

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