Food waste is a critical global problem. One-third of our food goes uneaten across the globe. This creates a heavy environmental and financial burden. Worldwide, wasted food can add billions of tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the atmosphere. In the U.S. alone, more than 52 million tons of food are displaced each year, carrying a price tag of well more than $200 billion.
Add it all up and the message is clear: too much food is being wasted, and Waste Management (WM) is committing to sustainability by figuring out how to get more value out of the leftovers.
When possible, prevention of food waste is the best solution for the environment. Two years ago, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency launched the first “food waste reduction goals” for the U.S., with the intent of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030. After prevention, redistribution of food—for example, through donation of unconsumed food to food banks—also helps reduce the amount of food going to waste.
In addition to reducing consumption and donating unconsumed food, WM is focused on finding food waste solutions—whether that’s through composting or, if in the right area, sending it to one of its CORe® processing facilities.
CORe® is WM’s organic recycling process that converts food waste into EBS®, which is an organic slurry product used to generate green energy. In Southern California, New York City, Boston and Northern New Jersey, CORe® delivers this product to municipal wastewater facilities, which increases their energy output.
A new video from the WM organics team offers an insightful look at this useful tool in WM’s arsenal against food waste:
CORe® offers a unique solution to the problem of food waste by utilizing existing wastewater treatment facilities. And the benefits of CORe® are particularly significant in urban areas, where food waste volumes are high.
In the locations where CORe® has been installed, the technology is working wonders. As Cheri Cousens, executive director of the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District in Boston explains, “The food that we normally throw away can be used as a fuel to produce renewable energy, and that renewable energy can be put to good use and make electricity and heat.”
As Director of Business Development WM Organics Dan Hagen says, “We’re able to reach into waste streams that may have not been traditionally recycled. Every ton of food waste results in enough electrical energy produced to power 8 to 10 homes.”
WM was inspired to create this innovative technology after noting that contamination—or the percentage of trash mixed with food waste—was a growing challenge for source-separated organics, and seeing that many existing wastewater treatment facilities had underutilized capacity.
As more Americans search for ways to use food waste for its highest purpose, the demand for this new technology has increased. Volumes are cranking up at all the facilities. We have made more than 30 million gallons of EBS® from the four facilities we have operating to date. Every ton of processed food waste can power 8 to 10 homes.
Processing food scraps via the CORe® process is an incredible opportunity to generate energy and reduce GHG emissions. According to Hagen: “Waste Management is a leader in processing food waste into a high-value end product that is ideally suited for co-digestion. The challenge now is to build on the momentum and make the most of this opportunity.”