Around 40% of the food produced each year for domestic consumption in America ends up wasted. Researchers have long been looking for solutions to capture the energy from that food waste and turn it into a feasible energy source. Recently, researchers from Cornell University have discovered a new process for capturing almost all of the energy in an item of food waste, with very little left to landfill.

The process begins by pressure cooking the waste, creating a form of fluid which can be further refined into a biofuel. What remains is broken down to methane, which can be used to generate electricity.

“Food waste should have a high value,” said the author of the study Roy Posmanik. “We’re treating it as a resource, and we’re making marketable products out of it.”

Biofuel has a variety of different possible applications, such as use in ethanol for automobile gas, or using agricultural waste to fuel jets. Generating electricity is yet another application for biofuel, and the process for using waste to capture natural gas is well-established, however, scientists say that a combination of the two processes would be most efficient.

You May Eventually Be Able to Power Your Home With Food Waste

There are benefits to converting food waste to energy beyond increased energy efficiency from cutting down waste. If methane is not captured as it leaves food waste, it becomes a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere accelerating climate change. According to an analysis by the EPA, food waste is responsible for 18% of methane emissions from landfills.

Research continues on the most efficient way to capture energy from food waste, as well as into how economically viable such a task is. In the meantime, other researchers agree with the Cornell University team that finding ways to harness energy from food waste is an important factor in combating climate change.

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