Instead of thinking “yuck” when faced with shriveled brown apple cores, slimly spinach leaves and stinky chicken bones, Dan Hecht of Montpelier thinks “energy.”
“There is value to be derived from stuff we throw away,” he said.
In an age when finding alternative sources of energy is both a state and national priority, Hecht points to the potential in a squandered resource: food scraps.
For one thing, it’s plentiful, Hecht said: “Every city and town in America already possesses a major source of renewable energy, one that does not need to be mined, harvested, refined or transported long distances.”
Hecht is project coordinator for the Central Vermont Recovered Biomass Facility, a research project that’s assessing the feasibility of collecting food waste, mixing it with manure and letting it stew until it releases methane gas, which can be used to produce heat and power, plus environmentally safe byproducts.
“The food garbage is the big innovation here,” Hecht said of this waste-to-energy project, seeded by a $492,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. “Nobody is doing post-consumer food waste.”
Once the research phase is completed in December, the food power project would move from the proof-on-paper phase to proof in practice.
The plan is to tap 14 tons a day of food scrap in the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District, combine it with 10 tons a day of manure from area dairy farms, and feed it into a biodigester to be built on the campus of Vermont Technical College in Randolph. The methane produced would be used either to fuel the college’s heating plant or to generate electricity for the campus