A New Weapon in Food Waste Conversion

Teresa Madaleno

Despite pullback from President Trump when it comes to climate change, scientists and environmental engineers continue to explore new avenues to preserve our planet. One of the latest discoveries to come out of Concordia University is a new weapon in food waste conversion.

Researchers from Concordia’s Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering have turned to “cold-loving” bacteria. As outlined in Process Safety and Environmental Protection Journal, the experts have been able to demonstrate the use of anaerobic digestion in low temperatures to convert solid food waste into renewable energy and organic fertilizer.

The team used psychrophilic bacteria, which seem to thrive in low temperatures. These bacteria broke down food waste in a bioreactor. The researchers produced a methane yield that is comparable to more energy-intensive anaerobic digestion techniques. These results suggest that there is great potential to reduce the amount of fuel we use for solid waste treatment. It also makes a case for being a viable solution when treating food waste in cold countries like, Canada.

Environmental engineers point out that the most common anaerobic digestion processes call for large amounts of energy to heat the bioreactors and also to maintain temperatures for the bacteria to perform the way it is supposed to.

This latest experiment has taught the researchers that we can adapt psychrophilic bacteria to produce a level of methane that is comparable to more common forms, but with less energy being used.

With about 1.3 billion tonnes of municipal waste being generated each year, research like this seems warranted. The team involved in the psychrophilic bacteria experiment hope their work will spurn a new direction in waste research.