Go Green Report: Putting Waste to Good Use


Pittsford, NY (WROC) - 30-40% of America's food supply goes to waste and much of it ends up in landfills. Now Wegmans is trying to change that.

Inside Wegmans' Pittsford store, there's no shortage of fruits and vegetables being sliced and diced. But it's the scraps that don't make the cut that are the main course in a new energy endeavor.

Recently the grocery store chain teamed up with Natural Upcycle to turn this into power.

Jason Wadsworth of Wegmans says that waste pick up happens on nearly daily basis. "We're in the average of about 6 tons a week of this type of material; inedible food scraps, trimmings really."

Wegmans employees wheel the food scraps out of the store where they are picked up by a Natural Upcycle truck. The scraps are then taken to one of two local farms. One of those is Lawnhurst Farms in Stanley... it's ironically right down the street from a landfill.

Food is emptied into an anaerobic digester where it is heated to 104 degrees and mixed with other organic waste full of bacteria like cow manure and rotten animal feed. That mixture lets off biogas.

"The biogas itself is then converted into electricity through a generator," explained Chris Noble, manager at Natural Upcycle. The process creates enough electricity to power the entire farm.  That's the equivalent of 400 homes for one year.

"We're not purchasing power from utility -- not purchasing propane to heat water -- so there's a lot of benefits," adds Donny Jensen of Lawnhurst Farms

This benefits not just the farm, but us too because it's harnessing methane gas that might otherwise just be seeping out of a landfill, and into the atmosphere.

"Methane is 21 times more potent to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide," explained Noble. "It creates a lot of greenhouse gasses. Harvesting that gas for a good use is a really great thing for the environment."

And in the end, everything really does add up. Food waste makes up about 30% of the trash generated at Wegmans.

"Whether it catches on has a lot to do with whether society wants to catch on," theorizes EnviTec Biogas' General Manager, Steven McGlynn. "In Europe this is very popular. But of course in Europe, electricity and gas is more expensive than in USA. The driving force? Cost of energy."

Right now 12 Wegmans stores in Western New York are turning their scraps into power. Wegmans donates all edible food not sold in stores to local foodbanks; only scraps that cannot be eaten are part of this energy program.

It's an idea, with a lot of room to grow.

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