In California, one county is converting food waste into useful energy.

Farm to fork to fuel image

When food scraps break down in a traditional landfill, they release methane, a potent heat-trapping gas. So Sacramento County now requires food manufacturers, cafeterias, and other large producers to separate food waste from the rest of their trash.

The food scraps are then sent to a digester – a sealed environment where the methane can be captured as the food breaks down.

The methane is then used to create renewable electricity or fuel that can power diesel vehicles. What’s left is compost that is sold to farms.

Taylor: “‘Farm to Fork to Fuel to Farm’ is an effort to turn what would otherwise be a waste stream – which is food waste – into a regional resource.”

That’s Tim Taylor of the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District. He says gas from the digester provides some of the electricity used by the University of California, Davis, and . . .

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Taylor: “We now have several hundred heavy duty vehicles running on the renewable natural gas being made from that food waste.”

The county plans to divert all food waste from large producers within nine years, turning a liability into an asset.

Reporting credit: Pam Memmott/ChavoBart Digital Media.

More Resources
Clean Cities Sacramento: Farm-to-Fork-to-Fuel Program
Farm to Fork to Fuel to Farm – Closing the Loop

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Diana Madson

Diana Madson contributed regularly to Yale Climate Connections from 2014 to 2021. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition to her...