Millions of tons of food scraps end up in landfills each year coming from people’s homes, restaurants, grocery stores, universities and more.
A New York State mandate that is piggybacking on the plastic bag ban will force large businesses that send at least two tons of food waste to landfills to divert it elsewhere. This could be toward sources like composters or digesters, like the one at Noblehurst Farms.
Noblehurst is focused on dairy products like milk and cheese. Five years ago they were able to use some help from the state to design a digester. That takes cow manure and mixes it with food waste shipped in from organizations around Western New York.
The food waste runs at nearly 50 tons per week while more than double is cow manure. Manure is less efficient but still will produce methane. Both waste materials are entered into a soupy mixture that is in the digester and heated to 102°. Methane bubbles up and is burned for energy.
“It’s power for our farm, as well as a creamery next door it will power as well,” said Chris Noble, manager of Natural Upcycling, the aspect of the family farm that generates energy from the food waste and manure. Any extra power is sent out to the grid.
The team expects more food waste as by 2022 this mandate will go into effect. This method is becoming more common as markets continue to change.” Dairy farmers have gone through a low-price cycle, so this adds some additional revenue to our business but helps sustain our business going into the next several years,” said Noble.