MA Turns Food Waste to Power

Making biogas from food waste and manure to generate electricity can help reduce MA power demand.

Food Waste Could Change MA Power

MA power shortage can benefit from turning waste food and manure into electricity. But, it's not an easy task and comes with other challenges.
Using waste food for biogas to make electricity does keep trash out of the landfill. But, it’s not an easy task and comes with other challenges.

It’s well known that MA has a problem with high electricity rates. National Grid customers have seen this in the recent rate spike. And because of natural gas dependency, the state’s problem of spiking prices may get worse. However, MA may have found a possible solution from turning waste food into power. Of course, converting food waste into cheap electricity rates comes with a whole lot of challenges.

Food And MA Power

MA produces about a million tons of food waste per year. Much of it ends up in landfills or incinerators, creating greenhouse gases and contributing to climate change. To combat this, MA launched a commercial food disposal ban. Its goal is to divert 35% of the state’s food waste from state landfills. This cuts the amount of commercial food waste for disposal in state to less than a half-ton per week.

Because of this ban, MA food businesses are turning waste to electricity.

Commercial biogas companies collect food waste and dump it into digester tanks. Over time, bacteria breaks down the food and releases methane gas, which makes up most of natural gas. The biogas facilities collect the gas to use for heat or make electricity. According to the American Biogas Council, the number of these facilities has increased by 21% in 2021. Which means that this trend is on the rise. Recently, MA law allowed eligible biogas facilities to participate in the Clean Peak Standard incentive program.

Food Waste Problems

Biogas digester systems are tricky things. Temperature, ph levels, and other factors must be watched to make them run efficiently. They also need a steady stream of organic waste (food or manure) to keep running year round. That’s why most are operated on farms with livestock. Because of this, businesses have to transport food waste to these facilities. And in some areas, that can be more expensive than sending waste to a landfill.

MA Waste Management

Why go through this trouble at all? Firstly, MA only has six landfills in operation. These landfills will likely fill up and close by 2030. Subsequently, MA will have to pay to transport waste it can’t keep. According to a MASSPIRG 2022 report, about 40% of the state’s waste stream includes banned materials. This includes food scraps that could go to food waste facilities.

Yet while more biogas facilities are being developed, its future in MA may be murky. Though biogas food waste helps solve MA’s landfill problem, burning the gas does contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. And while some operations, like Bar-Way, make fuel and fertilizer for themselves, others feed gas into the existing gas pipeline system. And that helps extend MA’s dependence on natural gas for energy.

You can learn more the energy industry in Massachusetts as well as how to shop electricity rates and plans at

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