State offering $4 million in grants and low-interest loans for converting organics to renewable energy.
Officials with the Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) have announced a proposed commercial food waste ban and funding to support anaerobic digestion (AD), a process that converts food waste into renewable energy.
“Banning commercial food waste and supporting the development of AD facilities across the Commonwealth is critical to achieving our aggressive waste disposal reduction goals,” says EEA Secretary Rick Sullivan. “These policies and programs will continue the Patrick Administration’s commitment to growing the clean energy sector in Massachusetts, creating jobs and reducing emissions.”
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has proposed a commercial food waste ban, to take effect by July 1, 2014, that would require any entity that disposes of at least one ton of organic waste per week to donate or repurpose the useable food. Any remaining food waste would be required to be shipped to an AD facility, a composting operation or an animal-feed operation. Residential food waste is not included in the ban.
To harness the energy in organic waste, Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration has made $3 million in low-interest loans available to private companies building AD facilities. The low-interest loans will be administered by BCD Capital through MassDEP’s Recycling Loan Fund, with money provided by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER).
“Many grocery stores and environmentally conscious businesses across the state currently divert their food waste, saving money in the process,” says MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Diverting food waste to AD facilities creates value by reducing the waste stream, tapping into the energy within food wastes, reducing greenhouse gases and producing a byproduct that can be resold as fertilizer or animal bedding.”
“Anaerobic digestion is yet another proven clean energy technology that supports the Patrick Administration’s energy goals,” says DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia. “By working together and leading by example, we are building the infrastructure to support clean, renewable energy generation and address a challenging organics waste issue with a solution that meets multiple economic and environmental goals.”
DOER also is making $1 million available in grants for AD to public entities through MassDEP’s Sustainable Materials Recovery Grant Program. MassDEP and DOER have awarded the first AD grant of $100,000 to the Massachusetts Water Resources Agency (MWRA) for its wastewater treatment plant at Deer Island. The MWRA currently digests sludge in 12 large chambers to help run the plant. A pilot project will introduce food waste into one of the chambers to determine the effects of co-digestion on operations and biogas production.
“The legislature and the regulatory agencies in Massachusetts have taken important steps to create a positive environment for private companies such as ours to make significant investments in the development of anaerobic digestion projects,” says Tony Callendrello, chief operating officer of NEO Energy.
“I am pleased to see Massachusetts continue to make investments in recycling and in the reduction of waste in our landfills,” says State Sen. Marc Pacheco, chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “As the Commonwealth continues to lead the rest of the country in our green policies and practices, this commercial food waste ban provides one more example of the cost savings and environmental benefits that are available when we set a clean energy target and innovate solutions to achieve it.”
“I appreciate the efforts of the Patrick administration in being open to technologies that will pave the way for more innovation, opportunities for new businesses and a funding source for dealing with food waste, which has become a growing environmental issue,” says Rep. Anne Gobi, chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.
"Thanks to the Patrick Administration, Secretary Rick Sullivan, and MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell, the Commonwealth is taking the lead in the nation in innovation through a commercial food waste ban and by funding energy-producing anaerobic digestion facilities,” says Sen. Gale Candaras, chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. "Through these dual initiatives, the Commonwealth is paving the way for public-private partnerships to develop a new, environmentally-friendly, renewable energy-producing industry which will not only keep our communities clean but also create jobs and revenue."
Food waste and organics make up 20-25 percent of the current waste stream going to landfills and incinerators. The proposed food waste ban would help the state reach its goals to reduce the waste stream by 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. To ensure that there will be sufficient facilities in Massachusetts to handle the waste resulting from the ban, MassDEP is working with the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance to conduct feasibility studies to build AD facilities on state-owned land.
Over the past year, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) has awarded 18 grants worth $2.3 million to study, design and construct AD and other organics-to-energy facilities across the Commonwealth.
“Massachusetts companies are again leading the way in the deployment of this exciting technology, which, in addition to producing environmental benefits, will create quality jobs in the already-booming clean energy sector,” says MassCEC CEO Alicia Barton.