Meeting of the Minds took a few moments to talk with Herrie Schalekamp about new working relationships between researchers and paratransit operators in South Africa and beyond. Herrie is the ACET Research Officer at the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Transport Studies. In addition to his research, teaching and consulting in the fields of paratransit and public transport reform he is involved in specialised educational programmes for paratransit operators and government officials. Herrie’s activities form part of a broader endeavour to investigate and contribute to improved public transport operations and regulation in Sub-Saharan African cities under ACET – the African Centre of Excellence for Studies in Public and Non-motorised Transport.
4 Unique Ways Food Waste Is Used for Fuel
Getting food from farms to your table is a huge energy expense. According to a National Resource Defense Council report, it consumes 10 percent of the United States’ energy budget, guzzles 80 percent of the nation’s total water consumption and uses 50 percent of the nation’s land.
Yet even with such great expense taken to keep grocery stores stocked, about 40 percent of all food—$165 billion worth—is wasted in the United States each year. All the while, there are millions of people who don’t get enough to eat, cities are running out of water and landfills are piling up.
But that’s not to say nothing’s being done. These four projects take the cake by finding unique ways to transform food waste into energy.
1. Football stadium turns junk food into renewable fuel
You might not think of a football stadium as the ideal place to generate energy, but the truth is, the football industry is ripe with opportunity. Millions of people gather at these stadiums to cheer on their favorite teams, throwing away tons of half-eaten hot dogs or discarding warm beer.
Believe it or not, that amounts to a lot of waste. The FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland is working to change that. In a partnership with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, the Cleveland Browns have initiated a new program that will divert as much as 35 tons of food waste created in the stadium.
The waste will be placed in a system, called Grind2Energy, that grinds up food waste into a slurry. The slurry will then be transported to an anaerobic digestion facility, where biodigestors convert the waste into energy.
Not only will this keep 35 tons of waste from Ohio landfills, it will also reduce carbon emissions at FirstEnergy Stadium by 28,000 pounds per year. That’s enough gas to fill a 13 mile-wide balloon!
The whole process of turning waste into energy will:
- Power one household for an entire year
- Generate natural gas to heat 32 homes for a month
- Recover enough nutrients to fertilize three football fields worth of crops.
2. Grocery store chain uses food waste to power warehouse
There’s a high price to having the freshest products on the shelf in your supermarket. Anything that goes bad before it can be sold or donated is wasted. Food 4 Less and Ralphs, both Kroger companies, can attest to the sheer volume of waste. About 300 of these stores produce 150 tons of food waste every day.
Each store loads its daily food waste onto a truck and sends the rotting food to a distribution center in Compton, California, where it’s all combined. Until recently, it was then trucked about 100 miles away to a composter. The stores expended a lot of resources, both financial and environmental, to get rid of their food waste.
However, in 2013, the process changed. Kroger decided to purchase an anaerobic digestion system from Feed Resource Recovery.
The system was placed at the companies’ distribution center in Compton. The waste stream that was once a burden to the grocery store chain now powers 20 percent of the 49-acre facility, which includes a 650,000 square foot warehouse, a creamery and corporate offices for Ralphs and Food 4 Less.
The food is first put through a blending system to remove all inorganic material, such as plastic packaging or glass and metal. Then the waste is placed in an oxygen-starved chamber where it breaks down, creating biogas and a mix of nutrients.
In addition to the environmental advantages of reusing food waste, Kroger estimates the system will eliminate more than 500,000 miles worth of diesel-fueled truck trips every year.
3. New city to get heat from pistachios
Turkey is one of the world’s largest exporters of pistachios, sending out more than 6,000 tons last year alone. That amount of pistachio production creates a lot of waste from spoiled nuts as well as shells. It may seem like a nutty idea, but Turkey believes its vast amount of pistachio waste can power 60 percent of the eco-city it plans to build.
Although the eco-city, which will be located just outside of Gaziantep in southeastern Turkey, is still pending approval from authorities, it hasn’t stopped developers from looking into renewable energy options for the new town. Fortunately, it didn’t have to look much further than its largest export.
Burning the nut resource will create biogas, which can be converted to heat the 200,000 planned homes in the city. Once the eco-city plans are approved, Turkey will start a 55-hectare (about 135 acre) pilot project to test the technology before the eco-city is fully constructed.
4. Artist uses gasification to power his studio
Energy innovations can come from the most interesting sources and intriguing people. Jim Mason, an artist from Berkeley, California, is now selling personal gasification machines that transform your food waste into energy.
Mason started his career as an artist. He purchased a location, dubbed the Shipyard, where he rented out space for studios, welding, performance art and occasionally living quarters. Due to a fire hazard, the city asked Mason to stop his activities on the property. After he refused, they turned off his power.
While that may seem like the end of the story, it’s actually just the beginning. The city’s move just motivated Mason to find alternative power sources for the Shipyard. He settled on gasification.
Gasification is the process of smoldering food waste to create energy. Because the waste smolders instead of burning it doesn’t combust and release any carbon emissions. Instead, hydrogen gas is released, which can then be converted to usable electricity.
Once the process is finished, nutrient-rich coals are all that’s left. When planted in the ground, these coals provide a fertilizer, so every bit of the food waste can be used.
Mason’s company, All Power Labs, has already sold more than 500 of its gasification systems. Although these machines cost $27,000 a piece, they can generate renewable energy for less than 10 cents per kilowatt hour.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Brownfields are sites that are vacant or underutilized due to environmental contamination, real or imagined. There are brownfields of some kind in virtually every city and town in the U.S., usually related to a gas station, dry cleaner, auto repair shop, car dealership or some other ubiquitous local business that once benefited the community it now burdens with environmental hazards or old buildings.
In addressing this issue, technology has not been effectively deployed to promote redevelopment of these sites and catalyze community revitalization. We find that the question around the use of technology and data in advancing the redevelopment of brownfields is twofold:
How can current and future technology advancements be applied to upgrade existing brownfield modeling tools? And then, how can those modeling tools be used to accelerate transformative, sustainable, and smart redevelopment and community revitalization?
Across the country, urban parks are enjoying a renaissance. Dozens of new parks are being built or restored and cities are being creative about how and where they are located. Space under highways, on old rail infrastructure, reclaimed industrial waterfronts or even landfills are all in play as development pressure on urban land grows along with outdoor recreation needs.
These innovative parks are helping cities face common challenges, from demographic shifts, to global competitiveness to changing climate conditions. Mayors and other city officials are taking a fresh look at parks to improve overall community health and sense of place, strengthen local economies by attracting new investments and creating jobs, help manage storm water run-off, improve air quality, and much more. When we think of city parks holistically, accounting for their full role in communities, they become some of the smartest investments we can make.