Waste not, want not

The University of Missouri in Columbia has been awarded a grant of nearly $300,000 to expand anaerobic digester capacity in the state.

It’s part of an EPA-funded project to help reduce food loss and waste and divert it from land­fills. MU is among 12 universities and organizations nationwide to receive a total of $3 million in funding toward this effort.

Anaerobic digestion is a process in which micro-organisms break down organic materials, such as food scraps, manure and sewage sludge, all in the absence of oxygen. The process re­sults in the production of biogas, which can be captured and used for energy production, and “digestate,” a nutrient-rich product that can be used as fertilizer.

The MU project seeks to increase the use of anaerobic digestion and improve digestate man­agement by establishing partnership programs and trainings for farmers, schools, businesses and governments. The university team will be led by Dr. Zhiqiang Hu of the Civil and Environ­mental Engineering Department.

In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30% and 40% of the food supply and is the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills. According to the EPA, anaerobic digestion is preferable to incinerating or dumping food waste because the process reclaims valuable resources, such as fuel or fertilizer, and reduces environmental impacts.

For more information on anaerobic digestion, visit www.epa.gov/anaerobic-digestion.

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