Assessing the Life Cycle Cost and Environmental Benefits of Food Waste Recycling

food and vegetable scraps

ERG helped EPA’s Office of Research and Development and EPA New England study the life cycle cost and potential environmental benefits of recycling food waste through anaerobic co-digestion, a process in which food waste can be combined and broken down with other waste streams to generate biogas and valuable soil amendments. Communities can use the study results for guidance as they transition from the paradigm of disposing of food waste to viewing it as a resource. In particular, ERG evaluated a wastewater treatment facility in Lawrence, Massachusetts, that recently began accepting food waste to boost its production of heat and renewable electricity. ERG found that anaerobic digestion of food waste results in considerable environmental benefits when compared to composting, landfilling, and incineration. ERG published its results in a publicly available EPA report, two BioCycle articles (Part I and Part II), and the journal Water Science & Technology.

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