Composting Expands With Monterey Regional Waste Management District's New Tech
January 21, 2013
On Friday, Monterey Regional Waste Management District and Zero Waste Energy will unveil the nation's first anaerobic digestion composter. The German technology, called SMARTFERM, turns food scraps to fertile soil and generates methane for electricity.
The SMARTFERM plant's four digesters can convert up to 5,000 tons of organic waste per year into 100 kilowatts of power, which is supplied to the neighboring Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control District, and 2,200 tons of compost for sale to local farms. Construction began in September.
It's not the district's first foray into food-scrap composting. For the past four years, the district has been working with Waste Management, Inc. to compost food scraps from participating local businesses. What began as a pilot expanded last August, inviting more local restaurants, retailers and hotels to sign up. The service starts at $229 per month but can lower the costs of a business's landfill-bound garbage.
Among the 15 participants: Asilomar Conference Center, Bayonet Blackhorse Golf Course, Bernardus Lodge, Basil Seasonal Dining, CSU Monterey Bay, Happy Girl Kitchen, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Passionfish Restaurant, Pebble Beach Company, Portola Hotel and Whole Foods Monterey.
The city of Monterey recently got an extra composting boost when The Offset Project landed a $15,000 grant from Community Foundation for Monterey County to work with the city's commercial food-scrap collection program.
"The grant to The Offset Project will help train new program participants in how to collect their organics and keep the material clean," explains MRWMD spokesman Jeff Lindenthal. "It might sound like an easy task, to collect food scraps, but we have found in fast-paced kitchen environments, the businesses have to really have a good system in place to ensure that the material diverted is clean."
Ted Terrasas, Monterey's sustainability coordinator, says he hopes the program will help boost the city's landfill-diversion rate from about 75 percent to 85 or 90 percent. "When you look at a pie chart, at what's left to collect out there, food is the big Pac Man chunk."
Residents, however, will have to wait for curbside composting—or toss those food scraps on the backyard compost pile.