County officials from across New York got a chance to see first-hand the waste-food-to-energy facility opened earlier this year by the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority.
The tour on Monday was coordinated by the New York State Association of Counties.
The $3.4 million facility takes in food scraps and waste food that would otherwise go to the regional landfill in Ava. Packaging is separated using specially designed machinery. The resulting slurry of scraps is sent to the neighboring Oneida County Waste Water Treatment Plant, where they are broken down into methane gas that can be used for energy through a process called anaerobic digestion. The gas is burned to run turbines providing electricity for the waste water plant.
The material comes from large generators such as hospitals, colleges, business offices, the food industry, grocery chains, and restaurants. Participation is voluntary, but food waste is $22 a ton cheaper than regular waste disposal, so separating food from other garbage can save the producers on their disposal fees. Residents also have the option to drop off bagged food waste.
The facility can accept a wide range of organic materials, including fruits and vegetables, dairy projects, coffee filters, greasy pizza boxes, and paper cups and plates. “Food2Energy is a world-class facility that shows the important role counties can play in reducing food waste and protecting the environment,” Association of Counties Executive Director Stephen Acquario said. “I commend local leaders in Oneida and Herkimer counties for working together to spearhead this innovative project and we thank the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for supporting their investments.”
According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, discarded food constitutes 22% of municipal solid waste, meaning more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash. The Food2Energy facility has the capacity to divert up to 21,000 tons of this waste from landfills annually.