Science 2 min read

Scientists Devise a new way to Turn Food Waste into Biofuels

LauraTara /

LauraTara /

A team of researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have devised a way to convert food waste into energy-rich biofuel.

Global food waste is a far-reaching issue than you imagined.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the entire world wastes roughly 1.3 billion tons of food annually. That’s one-third of the world’s edibles going to waste every year.

The story is the same in the United States. Indeed, USDA data estimates the country wastes between 30 to 40 percent of its food supply.

If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest contributor to carbon emissions, behind the US and China. That’s because as food decomposes, it generates methane — a potent greenhouse gas.

Several innovative solutions exist to help tackle the issue. These include:

  • Consumer awareness campaigns
  • Improved storage methods
  • Redistributing food
  • Improved food date labels

Similarly, researchers at PNNL have proposed a new solution — convert food waste into biofuels.

Here’s how it works.

Converting Food Waste into Energy-Rich Biofuels

The process of converting food waste into biofuel begins with blending the waste inside a piece of customized equipment called Muffin Monster.

Muffing Monster grinds up everything — whether its bones and gristles or wrappers and packaging. The resulting mush can then be continually pumped into a reactor to create fuel.

The PNNL researchers are currently testing different food wastes for a consistent outcome.

Luckily, the experiments also helped address several chemical and process engineering challenges. For example, they resolved pumping issues and fine-tuned the heat exchange design, among other things.

Besides the engineering challenges, the researchers also tackled some practical considerations.

For instance, economists are modeling various combinations of feedstocks and production factors. That way, they can determine how mass-produced biofuels might be cost-competitive with fossil fuel.

They’re also curious to know whether the biofuels will be compatible with the current infrastructure.

In the end, the PNNL team’s solution might solve three problems. Along with addressing the global food waste issue, the solution also promises economic and environmental benefits.

Read More: Biofuels: Why Consumers are Willing to pay Extra

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