Food waste statistics in the United States are staggering – the U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimated that between 30 percent and 40 percent of the food supply goes to waste. In 2010, this translated to about 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food. Wasted food is the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills.
To put that into context, one year of food waste in the U.S. gives off greenhouse gas emissions equal to:
the emissions of more than 42 coal-fired power plants in a year
enough water and energy to supply more than 50 million homes annually
the amount of fertilizer used in the U.S. to grow all plant-based foods for U.S. human consumption annually
an area of agricultural land equal to California and New York.
Major American corporations have committed to reduce food loss and waste in their U.S. operations by 50 percent by the year 2030 through an initiative by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions. Amazon, General Mills, Meijer, Starbucks, Unilever, Walmart and Walt Disney World have all committed to the initiative.
As companies work toward sustainability initiatives, putting food waste to good use can be an effective and fulfilling path to meet environmental goals. For smaller businesses, establishing and meeting sustainability goals can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. By partnering with a commercial digester, companies can recycle food waste that would otherwise be sent to a landfill, making a positive impact on local communities and the environment.
At the Fremont Regional Digester, a 2.85-megawatt anaerobic digester in West Michigan, we offer a sustainable path for food waste that supports the local economy. The digester takes in 165,000 tons of food waste every year, and naturally occurring micro-organisms break down food waste inside a sealed tank. This releases methane-rich biogas, which is harnessed to produce renewable electricity. Once the waste has been processed, the remaining organic material is used as a natural fertilizer on more than 1,000 acres of local farmland each year.
We obtain food waste from more than 30 sources per month, including packaged food manufacturers, growers, processors and distributors located across Michigan. The waste is primarily derived from the manufacturing and processing of food you could find at your local grocery store.
By working with the digester, companies can help meet their landfill diversion initiatives while also decreasing their carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. Partnering with the digester is also competitively priced in comparison to landfill or wastewater alternatives.
The digester facilitates the transportation of food waste and fertilizer and makes it easy to track improvements through regular reporting to help companies quantify their environmental impact.
Business leaders interested in learning more can visit fremontdigester.com/services or call 231-928-8008 for more information.
Nate Carr is regional operations manager at Generate Capital Inc., a sustainable infrastructure platform. He oversees the operations of three anaerobic digesters.