Washington D.C.: Engineers at the University of Waterloo have developed a technology that can help extract the biodegradable chemical from waste food that can be refined as a source of energy. According to the study published in the ‘Bioresource Technology’, the chemical could also be used to replace petroleum-based chemicals in a host of products including drugs and plastic packaging. Hyung-Sool Lee, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Waterloo, said,
People like me, environmental biotechnologists, look at food waste as a tremendous resource. With the right technologies, we can extract numerous useful chemicals and fuel from it.
The technology already exists to reduce the environmental impact by diverting food waste, collecting methane gas as it is broken down by microorganisms and burning the gas to produce electricity.
But Professor Lee said that system – known as anaerobic digestion – ultimately yields little or no net benefits when the high costs of food waste mixing and wastewater treatment are taken into account.
The technology developed at Waterloo dramatically cuts those costs by collecting and re-circulating leachate – a microbial cocktail mixed with microorganisms and nutrients – that trickles through the food waste in holding tanks, rather than stimulating biodegradation by intensive mixing.
As they eat and digest food waste, the microorganisms in those tanks also spit out a chemical byproduct called carboxylate, which has numerous potential uses as a substitute for petroleum, or crude oil.
Professor Lee said,
The amount of food we waste is staggering. That’s what motivated me to find a better way to utilize it to mitigate the damage caused by fossil fuels.
In addition to being cheaper and more productive than existing technology, he said, the system is designed for use on small and medium scales. Professor Lee added,
Even small towns could have their own systems. Food waste collected in green bin programs wouldn’t have to be transported long distances to enormous, centralized facilities.
Wasted food in North America adds up to about 400 kilograms per person per year, with the worldwide economic loss estimated at USD 1.3 trillion every year. Most of that discarded food goes into landfills.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.