Food waste could soon be powering our communities

Image Credit: Flickr, USDA

With nearly 40 percent of the food we grow in the United States going to waste — costing businesses as much as $161 billion each year — figuring out how to reduce it while also generating the most economic benefit is more important than ever.

Food waste is the single largest component going into municipal landfills in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Around one-third of the world’s food — or nearly 1.3 billion tons — is lost or wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. But just as we use food to power our bodies, there’s also great potential for it to power our communities.

The concept of turning waste into energy is nothing new — it’s something that has been done in one form or another for over a century — but creating a truly economical process for turning food waste into energy has been just out of reach, until now. Researchers at Cornell University have found a new way to capture nearly all of the energy in a food waste product, meaning nothing is leftover for the landfill.

A new way to turn waste into energy

The Cornell team’s research was supported by BARD (the United States-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund), Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, the Cornell Energy Institute and the Chilean Fund for Science and Technology.

Here’s how...