CHICAGO — The U.S. Environmental Protection announced the selection of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Energy Resources Center to receive $300,000 in funding to help divert food waste from landfills by expanding the use of anaerobic digesters. The program will develop a technical and educational assistance program to aid public water resource recovery facilities and community digesters.
“Finding solutions to better curb food waste continues to be a top priority for the Trump administration,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This year’s round of innovative community projects is focusing on ways to reduce food waste at the local and state levels and divert it from landfills.”
“There are numerous benefits to using anaerobic digesters for managing wasted food, including improving air quality, producing biogas and materials that improve soil health,” said Regional Administrator Kurt Thiede. “The work of the University of Illinois at Chicago and its partners to expand the use of anaerobic digesters will help divert food waste from our landfills and protect the planet.”
This anaerobic digestion funding opportunity is a part of EPA’s efforts and contributions to the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative, a partnership among EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration, to reduce food loss and waste through individual and combined federal action.
Anaerobic digestion is a process where microorganisms break down organic materials, such as food scraps, manure and sewage sludge, all in the absence of oxygen.
Anaerobic digestion produces biogas, which can be captured and used for energy production, and “digestate,” a nutrient-rich product, such as a fertilizer.
The project, “Technical Education and Analysis for Community Hauling and Anaerobic Digesters,” led by the U of I at Chicago’s Energy Resources Center, will partner with state agencies, industry experts, water resource recovery facilities and communities, while leveraging the U.S. Department of Energy’s technical assistance outreach programs.
The project is expected to provide at least 20 Anaerobic Digestion Technical Assessments utilizing EPA’s Co-Digestion Economic Analysis Tool, or CoEAT, along with other tools, and will provide technical support to facilities and communities evaluating the use of new and existing anaerobic digesters to divert food waste from landfills. Educational assistance will be provided through workshops, training webinars and several anaerobic digestion project profiles.
“The University of Illinois Chicago is excited to help communities and water resource recovery facilities in the Midwest region divert food waste from landfills by providing education and no-cost technical assistance to explore the increased adoption of anaerobic digester and renewable energy biogas technologies,” said Pete Nelson, dean of the College of Engineering at the U of I Chicago.
Twelve grants totaling over $3 million were awarded to institutions to support anaerobic digestion in communities. Anaerobic digestion is a strategy included in EPA’s food recovery hierarchy that is preferable to landfilling and incineration because it reclaims valuable resources. Keeping food waste from landfills, such as transforming it into fuel or fertilizer, can save money and reduce environmental impacts.