Adopting organics recycling can be a challenge for companies, overcoming those challenges requires innovative thinking, the creation of a new kind of infrastructure and raising awareness among end-consumers about the benefits of circular organics recycling.
Expanding Organics Recycling: Overcoming Challenges
Shawn Kreloff, CEO | Bioenergy Devco
Organics recycling is an important practice that helps food producers and purveyors reduce their environmental impact by redirecting food waste from landfills and turning it into valuable resources. The inefficient disposal of food waste has an enormous impact on the environment. Most often, these materials end up in an incinerator, where they are combusted and emitted as an environmental pollutant, or in a landfill, where they decompose and release methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. Adopting organics recycling can be a challenge for companies, as they struggle to implement effective programs. Overcoming those challenges requires innovative thinking, the creation of a new kind of infrastructure and raising awareness among end-consumers about the benefits of circular organics recycling.
One of the primary challenges companies face when expanding their circular organics recycling programs is the lack of infrastructure for collecting and processing organic waste. Many companies and jurisdictions do not have the necessary equipment or personnel to collect and transport organic waste to a recycling facility. Additionally, many organics recycling facilities do not have the capacity to handle large volumes of food waste, making it difficult for companies to implement effective recycling programs, as they may not have anywhere to send their organic waste.
It is important that the private sector and government work together to alleviate these challenges. In some jurisdictions, legislation, such as the Inflation Reduction Act, has played a significant role in increasing the number of businesses that use circular organics recycling by encouraging or mandating that organics be diverted from landfills into recycling programs. Legislation can also help offset initial investments to expand circular organics recycling programs through tax credits, subsidies, grants, or low-interest loans.
Organizations in the private and public sectors can also choose a partner specializing in recycling organic food waste into clean, renewable energy. Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a sustainable, circular and economically viable solution to our organic food waste problem, using natural microbial processes to recycle this material – at scale. AD facilities have been widely operated in Europe for more than 20 years. North America is quickly catching up in developing ADs, driven by the surging demand for renewable energy, strict government emissions guidelines and the need to recycle growing volumes of organic waste. Bioenergy Devco partners with municipalities, companies, institutions and utilities to finance, design, construct and operate anaerobic digestion facilities worldwide. Choosing a partner that can support all aspects of an organization's organics recycling program - from inception to operation - can lower the barrier to entry and increase the long term success of the initiative.
An obstacle organizations often face when creating or expanding their circular organics recycling programs is the lack of consumer awareness of the negative impacts of food waste and how individual and collective action can help to mitigate this impact. Methane is estimated to be responsible for 30% of global warming and today’s concentration of this potent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is the highest in the last 800,000 years. Many consumers are unaware of the importance of recycling organic food waste or may be skeptical of organics recycling facilities.
In addition to overcoming a lack of consumer awareness about how to participate in the process itself, there is also a lack of awareness of many of the benefits of this process. For example, anaerobic digestion is a well-established, natural process that gives organic material a valuable second life while improving clean air, water and soil health. Anaerobic digestion breaks down organic matter using microorganisms in the absence of oxygen. The process results in a nutrient rich soil amendment, called digestate, which can then be returned to the soil, helping to grow new crops. Additionally, anaerobic digestion redirects harmful greenhouse gasses and generates renewable energy in the form of renewable natural gas or even green hydrogen.
Addressing consumer awareness and education can be challenging. Companies and municipalities can invest in education and outreach programs to raise awareness about the importance of organic waste recycling and increase understanding of the processes used in organics recycling. This can include distributing educational materials to employees and customers, hosting workshops and training sessions, and partnering with local schools and community organizations to educate individuals on the importance of recycling organic waste.
One of the biggest challenges companies and municipalities face when expanding their circular organics recycling programs is the perceived lack of economic viability. Recycling organic waste can be expensive, and organizations may not see a direct financial benefit. In North America, new anaerobic digestion projects have often relied on public funding or purchasing organic material (also known as feedstock) to recycle. This model can burden taxpayers, be difficult to sustain and does little to address the millions of tons of food waste polluting our water and air. Alternatively, anaerobic digestion facilities that rely on food waste, as opposed to valuable agricultural by-products, create multiple revenue streams in the form of waste collection, natural soil additives for agriculture and renewable natural gas. These facilities also redirect food waste from landfills and from being land applied raw, creating an economically and environmentally sustainable solution.
Legislation also plays a crucial role in creating or expanding markets for recycled organic products. For instance, through government procurement policies, legislation can require or encourage using digestate or other recycled organic materials in public projects, such as landscaping or soil remediation, creating a stable and reliable market demand for recycled organic products, stimulating business opportunities and incentivizing companies to invest in circular organics recycling. This effect can also be achieved through legislative mandates to redirect organic material from landfill and into organics recycling streams.
Looking ahead, the American Biogas Council asserts that the construction of 13,500 new anaerobic digestion projects would generate 23,000 long-term jobs, generate enough energy to power 7.5 million homes and cut emissions equivalent to taking more than 15 million cars off the road. While government incentives, policies, and mandates can help to grow the market for organics recycling, the underlying incentive may well be the broader economic impact of adopting anaerobic digestion as a means of mitigating negative effects on the climate.
Organics recycling provides numerous environmental benefits and creates a high value green energy from organic food waste. Access to effective recycling programs can be hindered as organizations struggle to expand beyond basic food waste reduction measures. By partnering with local organizations, investing in education and outreach programs, and exploring new revenue streams and business models, organizations can overcome these challenges and create sustainable, economical and effective circular recycling programs.
About Shawn Kreloff
Mr. Kreloff has a 30-year history of successful entrepreneurial ventures and investments. Throughout his career he has participated in the founding, operating, financing and advisory of over 25 different companies.
Bioenergy Devco (BDC) began as a research project for Kreloff. Through his research, he quickly discovered the far-reaching benefits of anaerobic digestion technology including environmental sustainability, the creation of renewable energy, and excellent plant economics. Kreloff also recognized the urgent need for this technology to help tackle our planet's growing organics recycling challenges. Anaerobic digestion's natural microbial process is a truly sustainable solution to organics management yielding healthier and cleaner air, water and soil while simultaneously creating renewable energy and organic fertilizer.
Kreloff's investment thesis for BDC is to marry BTS's proven anaerobic digestion technology with plant financing, engineering, project development, and to guarantee energy yields and plant performance. The last part of the thesis is to bring this solution to the United States and the rest of the world.
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag
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