Baby Steps: The Slow Spread of US AD

When it comes to anaerobic digestion in the US, any news is good news. Even noncommittal, vague comments like those from a spokesperson for Ralphs Grocery Co.

Ralphs is one of the Kroger-owned supermarket chains involved with the anaerobic digestion system at a Los Angeles distribution center that process 55,000 tons of food waste per year. And here are the noncommittal comments that have me optimistic:

Kendra Doyle, a spokeswoman for Ralphs Grocery Co., said officials are considering the installation of “similar technology at other Kroger locations throughout the country in the future.”

image courtesy of renewmag.comThis is exciting mostly because of the potential scale of that spreading. If Kroger’s decisionmakers decided build biogas systems nationwide, that could mean AD at 2500 stores in 31 states. Even having systems only at regional distribution centers–more likely–would be huge.

And when other retailers see the results–powering the entire distribution center and achieving a return on investment in 5 years–I think it’ll catch on. That would be a major environmental win–keeping a massive amount of organic materials kept out of landfills.

The only potential snag would be if that system limits the incentive to reduce waste– the EPA’s #1 option. If you’re relying on food waste for energy, a waste minimizing campaign may lose steam (or never begin). More realistic, though, is that having an on-site AD system hinders reduction by creating a sense that, ‘Hey, we’re already progressive with our waste.’

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