Food scraps recycling

Food scraps is the largest category of municipal solid waste currently sent to landfills. When disposed of in landfills, food waste breaks down and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. EBMUD's wastewater treatment plant at the base of the Bay Bridge in Oakland not only treats sewage, but takes discarded materials like food scraps from restaurants and supermarkets that usually go to the landfill and converts them into renewable energy.

For the past seven years, EBMUD has been perfecting a process to efficiently convert food scraps to renewable energy. This pilot facility has converted 20 to 40 tons a day of restaurant food scraps to electrical power. Based on the success of the pilot project, EBMUD plans to grow this recycling program.

Recycling food scraps at EBMUD supports local zero waste and landfill reduction goals and mandates. EBMUD uses natural microbial activity, called anaerobic digestion, to convert these food scraps into renewable energy called biogas.

Benefits of EBMUD's food scraps processing facility:

  • Food scraps are converted to methane gas, and used as a renewable green fuel.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. The energy is used to power EBMUD's wastewater plant and the excess energy is sold back to the grid or used as carbon credits.
  • The Oakland location provides an innovative local solution with local benefits -with no need to transport wastes over long distances.
  • No combustion, incineration or other thermal conversion is used to convert the food scraps into biogas.
  • EBMUD's existing anaerobic digesters can be used for the food scraps recycling project.
  • The project supports local and regional efforts towards green house gas reduction (climate change), oil independence, zero waste and landfill reduction.

More Information

Links to stories about EBMUD's food waste program:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Turning Food Waste into Energy

KQED TV: Power Up With Leftovers | KQED Quest

Treatment Plant Operator Magazine: Beyond Net Zero