Food as Fuel

Somewhere, Doc Brown is smiling. OK, OK, he’s aawesome illustration by scottobear (via flickr) fictional character from Back to the Future, but still…

If Metro Vancouver gets its way, it will soon build a plant to convert food waste to fuel. Instead of fueling Deloreans like Doc B did, the plant could power municipal vehicles. Apparently, this is done in Sweden with confiscated booze.

Taking a step back, many worry about the negative impact of biofuels like ethanol. Biofuels production brings a net increase in Greenhouse gas emissions when carbon-absorbing forests and grasslands are burned to yield more cropland. And the competition between food and fuel, among other factors, has sparked serious food price inflation.

That’s why the Vancouver plan makes perfect sense: why not produce biofuel from food that’s just going to be sent to the landfill? Doing so won’t consume any more farm land or the oil and chemicals needed to grow and transport ethanol crops.

But, there’s some debate over the best use for inedible food waste. Some prefer composting. Others would rather see it create energy (via anaerobic digestion) or fuel. Any of these options would be better than the status quo–sending it to the landfill.

BTW, only 2.2 percent of food waste is “recycled” (i.e. doing one of the above options–see page 7).

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