College students turn food waste into fertilizer

With help from local college students, Swissvale Borough will soon use discarded table scraps to make fertilizer and grow crops. The community, located east of Pittsburgh, teamed up with Ecotone Renewables to set up a food waste disposal system and greenhouse behind the borough building on S. Braddock Avenue. It was delivered Oct. 28 and should be fully functioning by next spring.

The Seahorse prototype — named for its portability, water independence and strong “stomach” used to break down food waste — was created three years ago by Carnegie Mellon University graduate student Dylan Lew, University of Pittsburgh graduate Kyle Wyche, University of Pittsburgh undergrad Robert Davis, Boston College senior Elliott Bennett and partner company Impact Bioenergy.

Ecotone Renewables started as an aquaponics project at the University of Pittsburgh and was the first portable farming system in Pittsburgh. It uses anaerobic digestion to break down organic material without oxygen being present.

Each week, approximately 385 pounds of food waste will go into the machine, which is housed in a 8-by-20 shipping container to eliminate odors that may attract vermin. Over seven days, the waste is reduced to 50 gallons of fertilizer for use in Swissvale’s community gardens and Department of Public Works projects.

Read more at Next Pittsburgh (Kristy Locklin)

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