News Feature | March 31, 2014

Brooklyn Waste Plant Turns Food To Fuel

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


A wastewater treatment plant in Brooklyn is turning food waste into fuel. 

NPR provided a close up on the novel approach to renewable energy employed by the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is among the city's largest facilities. 

"The plant's longtime superintendent, Jimmy Pynn, shows off the plant's crown jewels: eight huge, shiny, oval-shaped steel tanks known as digester eggs. Each one contains millions of gallons of black sludge that's roughly the consistency of pea soup. Pynn calls it 'black gold,'" the report said. 

The plant uses bacteria inside the digester eggs to turn sludge into renewable energy, according to the report. 

"In this case, that gas is methane, which can be used to heat homes or make electricity. Right now, what these bacteria are digesting is mostly sewage sludge. But they're being introduced to a new diet: food scraps. The hope is that this plant will soon take in hundreds of tons of organic waste from houses and apartments," the report said. 

The idea is not totally original. 

"Anaerobic digestion isn't a brand new idea. What is new is the idea of adding food waste into the mix, at least in the U.S," the report said. 

"It's already being done in Europe, and a handful of cities in California and Canada are experimenting, as well as a famous theme park that creates a lot of food-related trash," the report said. 

Sending food waste to the plant is seen as environmentally-friendly.

"These projects have the potential to produce enough energy to heat nearly 5,200 New York City homes, reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 90,000 metric tons and help city government reach its goal of reducing municipal greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2017," American Recycler reported

Image credit: "Brooklyn Bridge & Lower Manhattan," Ethan Oringel © 2006, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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