What is the problem?
Approximately $162 billion dollars’ worth of food is wasted in North America each year, accounting for 40% of all food produced. This wasted food eventually ends up in landfills, where it decomposes and releases methane gas, a compound which is 25 times more toxic than carbon dioxide. In addition to the alarming environmental effects, food waste costs businesses upwards of $3.1 billion dollars per year in disposal fees, an added cost which is ultimately passed on to consumers. Despite the environmental and economic consequences, food waste holds great potential for generating energy when diversified into waste-to-energy (WTE) systems. In fact, WTE is one of the fastest growing segments of the world’s energy sector, projected to expand from its current market size of $6.2 billion to $29.2 billion by 2022.
What is being done?
The two major solutions in place for organic waste disposal, industrial WTE facilities and organic waste management, are not influencing enough change to solve this pressing issue. The current WTE infrastructure in North America is limited to large industrial facilities, resulting in inequitable access to WTE waste management systems. These facilities are expensive to build and operate and require waste to be transported to them, which greatly contributes to air pollution. The second solution in place is the organic waste management provided by municipal governments. This solution is only available in some municipalities and is insufficiently funded, causing a majority of the waste to end up in landfills.
Is it enough?
What is our solution?
We envision a world where businesses are able to harness the potential energy from food waste and convert that into usable energy. We are proposing an innovative, all-in-one device that converts food waste into biogas, and biogas into energy to create electricity to power businesses. Our device will be divided into two main components. The first will break down food waste into biodiesel with the help of anaerobic digesters, while the second component consists of a generator which allows the biogasto power specific equipment, businesses, or entire buildings. This device will allow businesses to run on a closed circuit so that they can produce their own electricity from their waste without requiring an external energy source. As a result, this device will eliminate the waste that would otherwise be sent into landfills, ultimately contributing to the reduction of air pollution and the diversion of food waste.
What is the impact of our solution?
Our device will allow businesses in the food and grocery industry to become fully energy independent, drastically reducing their carbon footprint. In addition to the financial incentive of reduced electricity expenses, businesses can generate electricity and sell it to the grid during peak hours, allowing them to profit from their waste.
How much will this device cost? How much can businesses save?
Through our preliminary research, we estimate that our device will cost businesses between $3,000 to $5,000. The average restaurant in Ontario spends $18,000 a year on electricity expenses, a one time investment of $5,000 in our device has the potential to save a business up to $18,000 a year.
How is our solution better than the current ones in place?
When compared to the two existing solutions, our device eliminates the need for waste transportation, as it is installed on site. Our device also allows businesses in smaller towns or rural areas without access to a WTE center or an organic waste management program to be socially responsible with their waste. Finally, this takes the burden off of municipalities as they are no longer responsible for organic waste management. In response, the government can provide incentives such as tax breaks to businesses who purchase our device. Ultimately, our device diverts food waste and reduces air pollution, providing a win-win situation for businesses and governments.