Nashville 2019: Diverting food waste with new technology

Local News

Landfills in Middle Tennessee are filling up fast.

Middle Point Landfill in Rutherford County is on track to reach its capacity in the next few years.

But now a new partnership may have the answer.

“You’ll see, this time of year, we have significantly more produce coming in, which means significantly more food scraps,” said Seema Prasad, owner of Miel in West Nashville.

Add produce that eventually spoils, plus uneaten scraps, and area restaurants accumulate a lot of food waste.

“This will fill up at least two to three times at least during a busy Saturday night service,” said Prasad.

According to the Greater Nashville Resource Council, organic material like food, crops, and yard waste, takes up about 30% of Middle Tennessee’s landfills.

“As we are growing as a population, we are definitely seeing increase waste,” Prasad said.

With airspace filling up fast, Prasad said something has to change.

“The infrastructure we are trying to build is called the dry anaerobic digester, and the digester can process massive amounts of food waste or organics waste on a very small footprint,” Prasad explained.

Prasad’s non-profit Resource Capture and the University of Tennessee have partnered behind the idea, which is new to Middle Tennessee.

It would build on current compost processing in the area to yield not only solid compost, but also liquid compost, and capture the methane produced to make renewable energy.

“It’s above ground – kind of like a torpedo – completely sealed at which point all the food waste organics goes in sealed and takes about 21 days from start to finish to fully process,” said Prasad.

An added bonus — the seal means little to no smell.

Prasad said the next step is finding locations to build the infrastructure and then the funding.

Prasad estimated the total cost is around $15-20 million.

“However, the amount of organics it’s able to produce and to process is significantly greater for that very small footprint,” she said.

To encourage businesses and residents to participate, the goal is to have subscription services around the same cost for traditional composting and trash pick up.

For a single bin that would be around $120 a month.

Prasad said so far, they have secured about $1 million in state grants for the project.

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