High-efficiency anaerobic digestion system in Mosca, Colorado will demonstrate innovative food and organic waste processing to help tackle climate crisis
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $200,000 to the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition for a food waste processing project that will help divert food and other organic waste from landfills. The Valley Roots Food Hub (VRFH), a program of the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, plans to install a high-efficiency anaerobic digestion (AD) system at its Mosca, Colorado campus to process food and organic waste and turn it into fuel.
“Keeping food waste out of landfills and converting it to fuel is a powerful tool for combatting the climate crisis. Projects like these can meet local needs and address global challenges,” said EPA Regional Administrator KC Becker. “This project will be innovative for the San Luis Valley and will provide opportunities for demonstration, education, and expansion into other parts of the region.”
With the funding, the VRFH will launch the Renewable Energy Park at the Mosca campus. The Renewable Energy Park will be a demonstration and educational space for learning and sharing the benefits of AD and other forms of renewable energy. The installation of the new AD system will demonstrate the technological feasibility and cost-effectiveness of using AD to convert food and other organic waste into processing and cooking fuel.
“The EPA’s visionary funding for diverting organics out of landfill streams and providing an opportunity for carbon-neutral renewable energy is a great catalyst for rural communities working on these issues,” said Valley Roots Food Hub General Manager Nick Chambers.
The San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition is one of 11 awardees this year (and the only Colorado recipient) to receive a total of approximately $2 million to divert food waste from landfills by expanding AD capacity nationwide.
EPA is prioritizing environmental justice by ensuring nearly half of the funds are awarded to projects or recipients located in underserved communities. Specifically, EPA says it “considered the effects of this program on people of color, low-income, tribal, and indigenous populations, and other vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and children. The VRFH project will benefit the more vulnerable and overburdened members of the community.”
The AD Process
AD is a process in which bacteria break down organic materials in the absence of oxygen. These materials can include food scraps, manure, and sewage sludge. This process produces a mostly methane biogas. Technology can then capture the gas and use it for creating energy and a nutrient-rich material called digestate that can be used as a fertilizer.
By decreasing the amount of wasted food in landfills, AD reduces landfill methane emissions, in turn reducing the impacts of climate change. Methane traps 28 to 36 times more heat in the atmosphere over a 100-year period than carbon dioxide.
Included in EPA’s food recovery hierarchy, AD is a waste management strategy preferable to landfilling and incineration because it reclaims valuable resources, contributing to a circular economy. Keeping food waste out of landfills by transforming it into fuel or fertilizer can save money and reduce environmental impacts.