GreenBiz: Unilever, Starbucks are founding members in venture to turn food waste into energy

 

The promise of renewable natural gas is a sustainability win that has been financially and logistically out of reach for even the largest companies. Vanguard Renewables created the Farm Powered Strategic Alliance to start delivering on this promise for its founding members Unilever, Starbucks and Dairy Farmers of America.

The Massachusetts-based recycler uses anaerobic biodigesters to create renewable natural gas from food waste. Bacteria in the digesters consume the waste, creating methane and CO2 as byproducts. The gas can then be used for energy purposes.

Vanguard has seven recycling facilities in the Northeast plus one in Colorado and another in Georgia. It has installed six digesters on farms in Massachusetts and Vermont, and already has started collecting food waste from Unilever, Starbucks and Dairy Farmers of America’s manufacturing facilities.

By the end of 2021, the company expects to have 10 operating digesters with projects in construction in New York, Colorado, Georgia and Nevada and expand its membership to at least 10 other industry leaders. The biogas created is sold back to its members as well as pumped into local grids. A byproduct of anaerobic digestion process is a low-carbon fertilizer that has allowed farms to drastically reduce or eliminate synthetic fertilizers use and are increasing yield.

Just like you recycle cardboard, and you recycle glass or plastics. Now it’s time to recycle food waste.

“Companies say, ‘It’s too hard for me. I just want to put all my waste out on the loading dock and have it go away at night,’” said John Hanselman, co-founder of Vanguard Renewables. “Our goal is to say, ‘No. Just like you recycle cardboard, and you recycle glass or plastics. Now it’s time to recycle food waste, and it’s not that hard. We’ll show you how to do it successfully.”