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Don’t Clean That Plate – That Could be Electricity!

Posted by susabelle at 8:08 AM on November 10, 2009

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Remember when you were a kid, and your mother made sure you completely cleaned your plate? Well, some smart people in San Francisco have come up with a way to use table scraps to make electricity. Right now, it’s enough electricity to run the water treatment plant there, but if the plan is fully developed and enough scraps are steered towards the endeavor, there is the potential to power homes and businesses to boot.

An article in USAToday outlines the program well, but the basic process is that food scraps are collected from area restaurants, processed through tanks full of bacteria to create methane gas, which is then used to produce electricity. The remainder of the food scraps once they have put out all the methane they can are composted and then used for fertilizer in commercial operations.

It is estimated that only 3% of the food scraps in the United States are kept out of landfills by being placed in compost or used for other purposes (we compost at my house, but only vegetable-based scraps). If 50% of the United States’ food waste would go through the process that San Francisco is using, it could power 2.5 million homes a year. That’s a lot of gas. Who knew there were so many food scraps, and that they were so valuable?