Composting is a potent tool to reduce methane from our landfills by converting food scraps into rich fertilizer, which is detrimental to mitigating the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we produce. However, millions of tons of food waste are generated between Washington and Oregon annually, mostly from commercial kitchens and large grocery stores that over-order or use antiquated business models.
To tackle this massive food waste problem, the Washington State Department of Ecology published the "Use Food Well Washington Plan" (UFWW Plan) in 2022. The plan outlines several steps to create a resilient food system while reducing food waste, in line with Washington's climate goals and Washington's Organics Management Law, House Bill 1799, which aims to reduce organic waste by 75% in the next seven years.
The UFWW Plan can reduce statewide food waste by approximately 1.3 million tons, leading to an emissions reduction of nearly 2 million metric tons. Such a reduction could power 68% of homes in Clark County each year while reducing food insecurity statewide and stimulating the economy.
Such lofty goals require statewide collaboration in both the private and public sectors through a comprehensive implementation of the 30 recommendations laid out by the UFWW Plan. One Massachusetts-based company, Divert, is at the forefront of food waste reduction and power generation, and they've planted their roots in Longview, Wash.
Since 2008, Divert has been developing its ground-breaking technology to turn food waste into energy at no cost and no carbon emissions. They opened their first facility in Los Angeles, California, nearly 14 years ago and have since revolutionized anaerobic digestion. Their Longview, Wash. Location will be one of 10 nationwide facilities, processing over 2.3 billion pounds of food into renewable energy.
Before Divert's announcement, a central issue in the UFWW Plan was developing adequate infrastructure to process food waste, and the state's anaerobic digestion capacity needed to be improved. Within recommendation nine of the UFWW Plan, the department projected that they could expect to divert 54,000 tons of food waste from the landfill with full implementation. Divert is projected to nearly double that and remove 100,000 tons of food waste yearly.
This sounds like a fantastic solution to a significant issue in the state, but how does it work? Anaerobic digestion (AD) utilizes microbes in environments without oxygen to break
down organic matter and turn it into a renewable natural gas (NRG). Once the food is donated from retailers to Divert, they can process the nutrients and capture valuable carbon, turning them into a clean liquid food slurry. The slurry is then taken to a Pacific Northwest farm, where it undergoes the AD process, and the NRG produced is captured while the remaining solids are used as organic fertilizer.
The Longview facility will be fully operational by the end of 2024, a massive stride in food waste reduction and greenhouse gas emission reduction. Through the dual impact process, Divert is offsetting 23,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to getting 5,000 gasoline-powered vehicles off the road each year, while reducing the amount of methane from landfills by decomposing food produced by 650 stores in Washington and Oregon.
This is one of the several improvements being made statewide to reduce food waste and build a more sustainable state. To learn about steps you can take to reduce your food waste, read Food Waste Reduction (clarkgreenbiz.com), participate in our We Compost pilot program, and attend our Morning Blend community networking events.
Divert breaks ground on anaerobic digestion facility driven by Washington's organics management law | Waste Dive
Facility planned for Longview will convert surplus food into carbon-negative renewable energy - The Columbian
Food waste creates more greenhouse gases than the airline industry - The Washington Post
New Washington facility hopes to keep food waste from landfills | kgw.com
Our Story: Protecting the Value of Food | Divert (divertinc.com)
Senator Maria Cantwell Visits Future Divert Facility | Divert (divertinc.com)
Use Food Well Washington Plan