Progressive Farm Turns Grocery Store Food Waste into Energy to Make More Food

  • Article
  • May 12, 2016

Every year in the U.S. we throw away 40 percent of all the food we produce — that’s 133 billion pounds of food. And grocery stores are responsible for 10 percent of that food waste.

What can a grocery store, dairy farm and a creamery do to address this issue? Turns out, a lot!

Many grocery stores are looking for new ways to reduce and recycle their leftover food. With the help of a local dairy farm and its dairy cooperative, Geissler’s Supermarket in East Windsor, Conn., has found a way to divert all of their food waste from a landfill and convert it into energy to make butter.

So, how does it work? Employees at the Geissler’s store collect food scraps into special bins, where it is ground into a mixture as part of the Grind2Energy organics recycling system. Vanguard Renewables contracts with Casella Organics to pick up the food waste and deliver it to Barstow’s Longview Farm, in Hadley, Mass.

At the farm, the organic material is put into an anaerobic digester that blends it with the farm’s cow manure and food processing byproducts from citrus processing, dairy processing, vegetable canning, breweries, sugar production and more.

The digester produces 2,200 MWh of clean, renewable energy per year — enough to power more than 250 homes, or to power the equipment to churn a lot of butter. 

Why butter?

In partnership with Vanguard Renewables, the renewable energy produced by the anaerobic digester is sent in the form of energy credits to Cabot Creamery Cooperative in West Springfield, Mass., (which is also where the farm’s milk is processed) and offsets all of the energy needed to make Cabot butter.

This process is the ultimate closed-loop recycling model – the food waste from the grocery store goes to Barstow’s Farm and is converted into power and natural fertilizer to make more food that ultimately returns to the grocery store, completing a full-circle cycle. The system is called Real Farm Power and it earned the farm and Cabot Creamery Cooperative the 2016 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award. The award recognizes outstanding dairy farms, businesses and partnerships for socially responsible, economically viable and environmentally sound practices.

In addition to making butter, another benefit to the process is that hot water is re-captured from the digester system and provides heat to the farm house and milking parlor. In total, the farm’s carbon footprint reduction is 5,680 tons per year, which more than offsets the farm’s emissions.

The farm receives 14,000 tons of organic food waste in total each year from 15 different food companies and the process is catching on with other manufacturers – a revolutionary step forward in recycling and re-using food waste in the U.S.