Turning Food Leftovers Into Energy Fast

A team of researchers at Cornell University has discovered a process of turning leftover food into energy much faster than already existing methods. It is a two-step process and is very efficient, since it captures virtually all the available energy.

Other methods work on the basis of anaerobic digestion with bacteria slowly chipping away at the organic matter and producing methane, which is then used for fuel. This new method that the researchers discovered works on the basis of the process of hydrothermal liquefaction. Basically, the food leftovers are first pressure-cooked, which results in a sort of bio-oil. This bio-oil is then refined into biofuel, while all that remains of the original food leftovers is just very watery liquid.

The next step is to feed this liquid into an anaerobic digester, which converts it into methane in a couple of days. Two sources of usable energy are produced via this method, one for generating electricity, the other heat, while none of the original food leftovers go to waste. When using just anaerobic digestion, it can take weeks for the food waste to turn into energy.

Also, the liquefied product that is leftover after the hydrothermal processing in this new method is better for the anaerobic digestion part of the process. Combining the two makes the overall process both more efficient as well as quicker. It takes mere minutes to achieve hydrothermal liquefaction and just a few days for the anaerobic digestion.

Current statistics show that about one-third of the world’s food is wasted, while US landfills are primarily filled with food waste. Needless to say, one of the priorities should be to keep food from becoming waste. But it is also important to find efficient ways of recycling food waste into something useful. A process such as this one, which leaves virtually no waste while producing clean energy would greatly reduce our carbon footprint and lessen our dependence on fossil fuels.

Food Recycling Gadget that Fits in Any Home

recycler

WLabs has come up with the so-called Zera Food Recycler gadget, which does exactly what the name suggests. It is a compact food recycler, which is small enough to fit into most homes, even very small ones. But that’s not the only problem it solves. It also allows for creating natural fertilizer in our homes without the associated smell, and judging by the fact that it has already greatly exceeded its funding goal on Indiegogo, it is exactly what people have been waiting for.

The Zera Food Recycler is basically a bin into which you can throw all of your kitchen scraps. The idea is to collect these scraps for a week, and then use the gadget to turn them into homemade nutrient-rich fertilizer in only 24 hours. Once the machine is full, a packet made up of coconut husk fibers and baking soda is placed into the bin. Then you simply press the START button and the gadget begins the process of heating, slicing, mixing and oxygenating the foodstuffs inside it. It takes less than 24 hours to turn the food into fertilizer, which can be retrieved from the bottom of the storage bin. Thanks to a HEPA filter there is no foul odor associated with this process. The gadget can also be controlled and operated via a smartphone app.

process

Nothing beats natural composting, but the process takes a while, and requires a backyard. Gadgets like this one make it possible to recycle food practically anywhere, and they are an excellent solution for those living in a tiny home. The Indiegogo campaign is still going on, though most of the early bird pricing offers have already been sold out. It is still possible to pre-order the machine for $999 though. The price of the recycler will be $1,199 once it goes on sale, which will be in September 2017.