Canada looking into solving food waste and clean energy problem

Food waste is a growing problem in Canada and many other parts of the world — and it is only expected to get worse in the coming years. An estimated 60 per cent of food produced in Canada — over 35 million tons per year — ends up in landfills. However, Canadian cities have also run out of land to dispose this accumulating waste.

In an effort to reduce the growing problem of food waste disposal, researchers are focusing on developing new technologies that use food waste to generate clean energy. Biomass gasification uses heat, oxygen, steam, or a mixture of those, to convert biomass — food and agricultural waste or other biological materials — into a mixture of gases that can be used as fuel.

Biomass gasification works by feeding semi-dry food waste into a unit that looks a bit like a cooking pot, where it passes through a hot, bubbling substance that converts it to fuel gas. This process, known as fluidization is very efficient at converting food waste into high-valuable sources of energy-rich synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, also called syngas. Syngas can be used to generate heat and power. This process is sustainable because is considered to be carbon-neutral.

Farms, cities and municipalities could implement this sustainable technology to cut utility expenses for heating or electricity. They could also significantly reduce dependency on landfills and lower the operating budget for solid waste management services which can reach near $380 million per year for a city the size of Toronto.

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