Photo: Super-powerful food scraps

Your food scraps have superpowers. All you need to harness them is a good recycling program and anaerobic digesters. (Courtesy of K. Jones/Harvest Power)

Composting has been around since the beginnings of agriculture and is still celebrated by garden enthusiasts and permaculture gurus. In 1998, the David Suzuki Foundation salmon forest project demonstrated irrevocably that the completion of the salmon lifecycle grows our forests — their return to the earth is an integral part of a healthy ecosystem.

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Lately, the conversation has landed on food scraps — they can make clean energy AND get back to the earth, too! Today's food-scrap recycling programs transform bread crusts and carrot tops into power. In fact, when it isn't recycled, $28 billion dollars in household food waste ends up in landfills.

One of the leaders in the industry is Harvest Power in Richmond, B.C. For those of us living in the Metro Vancouver region, it's likely Harvest Power that's harnessing energy and nutrients from household food scraps collected through municipal programs.

Diverting waste from landfills, producing clean energy and returning organic matter to the earth makes sense. But what about home composting? If you can do it right, power to you! But if your compost pile isn't performing, or you're not into it, or you live in an apartment, power to food scrap collections!

And power is really what it's all about. In order to manage the immense amount of food scraps generated in our dense urban environment, Harvest Power has built and operates an anaerobic digester with ten tunnels packed full of food waste.

The anaerobic digester, or Energy Garden, uses naturally occurring microorganisms to break down organic materials and produce biogas — a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide — that can be used directly as fuel, processed in combined heat and power gas engines (CHPs) or upgraded to natural gas-quality biomethane. Harvest's Richmond facility turns biogas into electricity to power local homes and businesses. The process also produces a nutrient-rich digestate that gets composted into a powerful natural fertilizer.

Anaerobic digestion and composting are great solutions for harnessing superpowers — energy and nutrients! The process accepts all food scraps and makes it easy for everyone to participate.

If you aren't putting out food scraps yet, embrace their superpower capacity and jump on the household food-scrap recycling bandwagon!

Tovah Paglaro, a fellow Queen of Green

November 4, 2013

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Nov 10, 2013
1:03 PM

I hope these were not just used for the pix but were harvested for consumer consumption after the pix was taken.(LOL)

Nov 10, 2013
12:30 PM

Our backyard program for recycling scraps includes a dozen laying hens. They eat it all :)

Nov 06, 2013
12:32 PM

Combined heat and power units for individual homes are a reality. If you couple one with a bio digester to produce methane you could offset some of your home natural gas use.

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