The Food Waste Frontier: Harvest Power Turns Juice Into Juice

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I’m no stranger to green living and sometimes it feels like I’ve seen it all. I wrote a book chock full of recipes for things like Eco-friendly toothpaste and laundry detergent, I’ve interviewed green-trepreneurs, and I’ve reported on everything from sustainable schools to winter biking. But this story is without a doubt one of the coolest environmentally friendly initiatives I have ever seen.

Food scraps

Image courtesy of szczel.

The company behind my latest enviro-crush is called Harvest Power, and they process food scraps – yes, food waste. That in itself is sort of amazing, given that approximately 40% of U.S. food goes to waste, and that 40% amounts to 34 million tons a year headed directly to landfills.

Small-scale solutions are plentiful – preventing food waste by meal planning, reducing landfill waste by composting or vermiculture, and even feeding kitchen scraps to backyard chickens. Harvest Power, however, went big.

To explain what they do, let’s start with their biggest client: Walt Disney World. Yes friends, Mickey Mouse is green- who knew? The Happiest Place on Earth produces an estimated 50-60 tons of food waste per day from it’s many restaurants and concessions stands. But instead of heading to the garbage, this waste is collected by Harvest Power and trucked to their waste processing facility a mile away. There, the unappetizing slurry of leftovers is poured into giant tanks to stew for 25 days. During this month of decomposition, methane gas is produced as a natural byproduct of microbes breaking down the food matter. This gas is collected and diverted to engines, where twin turbines produce enough electricity to power 16,000 homes for a year. Sixteen thousand homes! For a year! From Disney World’s leftovers!

This is honestly so cool, I can’t get over it. AND WE’RE NOT EVEN DONE YET.

After the mash of leftovers has finished doing its methane-producing thing, the remaining pulp is removed from the tanks and used as fertilizer to grow more food. It’s a closed loop system! Somebody please call Simba because friends, the circle of life is alive and well, in Florida of all places.

Currently Harvest Power processes 1.8 million tons of food waste per year, which generates 65 million kilowatt hours of power, and results in 43 million bags of soil and mulch headed to food-producing farms.

Disney is Harvest Power’s largest client, but they certainly aren’t the only ones jumping on board, the city of Metro Vancouver (Canada) has also contracted Harvest Power to turn food waste into power, and I doubt I’m the only one hoping to see this technology expand across the continent until it becomes the norm, rather than the amazingly cool, innovative exception.

Bravo, Harvest Power. My green hat goes off to you.

Feature image courtesy of jbloom

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Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.