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California Turns Leftover Food Into Renewable Energy

Digital Journal — Leftovers as fuel? It sounds like David Suzuki’s wet dream, but in fact it’s a reality for California’s Bay Area.

Starting this week, tonnes of table scraps from restaurants in the state will be converted into clean, renewable energy at a UC Davis research facility. The Biogas Energy Project will process eight tonnes of leftover food weekly from restaurants such as San Francisco’s Slanted Door, Jardiniere, Scoma’s, Boulevard and Zuni Café, and Oakland’s Oliveto and Scott’s Seafood.

The project aims to produce enough electricity to power 10 California homes for one day. The university’s “anaerobic phased solids digester” processes a wide variety of waste including food scraps, yard trimming and animal manure. It then produces two clean energy gases, methane and hydrogen, which can then be used to produce electricity and heat to propel cars, trucks and buses.

By diverting organic matter from landfills and into the energy system, the digester reduces greenhouse gas emissions while also converting trash into a renewable source of energy.

California is one of the leaders in the green-tech revolution, and the UC Davis project is solid proof that the state is committed to environmentally friendly solutions. What is so impressive about the digester technology is how simple the idea is: Take leftover food people throw away and convert the waste into energy. It’s almost too easy.

The real challenge, though, is convincing other universities to undertake this project, and then wooing politicians to support this idea whole-heartedly. Going green may not be a very sexy policy, but politicos can’t deny the impact energy projects like these can have on public perception. Better yet, enviro-stars like Suzuki should be backing the digester technology in order to lend another powerful voice to a nascent start-up.

And the next time you eat out, remember where those leftover can go — right into your car’s gas tank.

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