In a first for California, a new food scrap recycling facility (using anaerobic digestion) has started construction in South Sacramento. This plant, a $13 million dollar project between Clean World Partners and Atlas Disposal Industries, is set to be the largest food waste digester in the United States, although these types of facilities have had a proven track record around the world.
The plant is following in the footsteps of CWP’s first commercial digester located in the American River Packaging plant of northwestern Sacramento. The food waste used by the anaerobic digester is locally sourced and collected by Atlas Disposal. When "digested," the waste becomes valuable gases such as methane and carbon dioxide which can then be used to generate electricity and fuel cars. The remaining "digestate" will be composted and used as an agriculture soil amendment.
By 2013, the plant plans to process up to 100 tons of food per day and convert it into clean renewable energy. Warren Smith, co-founder of Clean World Partners, (right) calls the project a "triple benefit" because not only will the plant divert food waste from landfills; it also creates a renewable source of energy and cuts down on greenhouse gases.
Even local schools will feel the benefits of the Organic Waste Recycling Center. 25% of Atlas Disposal’s trucks already run on compressed natural gas, but the president of Atlas imagines that the plant will produce enough gas to fuel over 100 trucks and 80 school buses within the next five years.
Once the south Sacramento plant is fully up and running Clean World Partnership officials estimate that the center will divert 37,000 tons of waste from landfills, produce 2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, and replace 1 million gallons of diesel with natural gas every single year. Smith sees a long future for digester technology:
There's unbelievable market potential, once we learn how to do it. I'm getting calls from Boston, L.A., Chicago, and there's just as much international interest
For the City of Sacramento, the introduction and use of these commercial digesters are a beautiful marriage of long term sustainability and financial consciousness. The opening of a second plant combined with the existing productivity of the American River plant is projected to produce over $1.1 million in tax revenues annually.