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Anaerobic digestion offers a solution to two major challenges: food waste and
transitioning to clean energy. We spoke with Shawn Kreloff, founder and CEO of
Bioenergy Devco, to discuss the technology’s potential.
As individuals, companies, and the government work to be more sustainable, food
waste remains a challenge. In the US alone, we waste 80 million tons of food
per year, according
to Feeding America; and that waste emits potent greenhouse gases including
into the atmosphere. While composting is an option at the individual or smaller
municipality level, it takes time and is difficult to scale. But a time-tested technology, anaerobic digestion, could be emerging as a scalable solution — thanks to companies such as Bioenergy Devco.
Sustainable Brands® spoke with Shawn
Kreloff, founder and CEO of Bioenergy
Devco, to discuss how this innovative technology is a scaleable solution for
organizations and municipalities dealing with excess food waste.
Shawn Kreloff: Anaerobic digestion (AD) is an organics-recycling process in
which organic materials are broken down naturally by microorganisms in the
absence of oxygen. AD provides numerous environmental
that are lacking when organic waste is sent to landfills, where its breakdown
results in the emission of harmful greenhouse gases. Increasingly, AD is proving
to be the preferred method for managing organic waste.
AD and composting are both processes that involve the decomposition of organic
matter, but they differ in terms of the conditions under which they occur and
the end products they produce. Unlike composting, anaerobic digestion not only
produces a healthy soil
— it also generates biogas that can be used as a clean, renewable energy
SK: Anaerobic digestion has significant advantages in the amount of food waste
processed per acre. A typical, large AD plant can process 150,000 tons of food
waste per year on approximately 5 acres. The average AD processing time (hold
time) is 30 days, whereas windrow
has a hold time of approximately 22 weeks.
SK: The United States is grappling with the dual challenges of advancing
clean-energy initiatives and establishing effective organic-waste management
strategies. A year since Congress injected substantial
into the clean-energy transition, progress has been made; but hurdles persist.
Private-sector interest in clean-energy initiatives has surged — yet the
approval process for energy projects exposes critical flaws that, if left
unaddressed, could thwart the realization of clean-energy
These challenges exist at every governmental level — from local municipalities
to the federal government.
SK: Our Maryland Bioenergy
is a great example of how we are helping organizations and municipalities with
excess food waste. It serves a diverse range of stakeholders:
Food industry: For food processors, institutions, and companies faced
with the challenge of disposing of organic waste sustainably, Bioenergy
Devco provides an innovative and cost-effective solution. By partnering with
them, these entities can enhance waste management, reduce operating costs,
and meet corporate sustainability goals.
Municipalities: Collaboration with local and state governments and
regional partnerships empowers the redirection of organic waste from
landfills and incinerators. This approach not only supports broader
zero-waste initiatives but also generates high-quality jobs and boosts local
Waste haulers: Designed with efficiency in mind, the Jessup facility
provides waste haulers with a layout that optimizes traffic flow and
multiple scales for streamlined operations. Open for deliveries 24/7 and
strategically located near I-95, it helps haulers reduce transportation
costs and attract sustainability-focused customers.
The Maryland Bioenergy Center is designed to recycle an impressive 110,000 tons
of organic waste each year into natural gas and nutrient-rich soil digestate.
The renewable natural gas produced at the facility, estimated to reach a
staggering 312,000 MMBtu annually, represents a significant contribution to the
region's energy landscape. This renewable natural gas can be utilized for
various applications — from direct piping to utilities to green hydrogen
production, offering an eco-friendly alternative to conventional natural gas
In addition, the facility generates over 16,000 tons of rich, fertile soil
amendment — which is an invaluable resource for agriculture and land use that
contributes to healthier soil and fosters improved crop growth.
Bioenergy Devco also has projects in development in Delaware, Georgia,
Virginia and New Jersey.
SK: In essence, organic materials can offer a comprehensive strategy to
enhance the soil, air and water quality of local communities. When used as raw
materials for anaerobic digestion, redirected organic waste becomes a source of
clean energy. Beyond the immediate benefits of organic waste reduction and
spurring new industries, this approach fosters a more sustainable and resilient
environment — positively impacting the well-being of ecosystems and the people
SK: The best way for a farm, company or municipality to start is to accurately
assess their organic waste stream and research their organization’s goals on
recycling. This assessment should capture tonnage, type of food waste, and
waste-transportation and -hauling costs. This assessment will serve as a basis
for doing a cost comparison and goals that can be achieved. Once this
information is in hand, they should contact Bioenergy Devco and we can open a
discussion on food-waste recycling possibilities.
Published Feb 9, 2024 8am EST / 5am PST / 1pm GMT / 2pm CET
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.