Food Waste To Energy

Biofuel being used to fill up vans

Discussing the complicated topic of biofuels has never been a simple matter.

We’re all familiar with the advantages of renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind farms.

But what about converting food waste to energy?

Bold claims were being made over a decade ago regarding how it would rid us all of gas guzzlers and usher in a glorious new age of driving to the local shop in a car fueled by your gran’s leftover bangers and mash – and now we are hearing statements that biofuels can raise food prices and cause as much harm to the environment as petroleum.

How has the story changed this much, and do we really want to be on the same diet as our cars?

“I was going to fill my tank with biomass, but I ate it”.

What are the applications and limitations of biofuel?

Transport

Transportation takes up over one third of energy usage in most countries – this is no different for biofuels.

The main problem with the alternatives is that solar, wind, and other sources of energy. is not practical for transportation. Specialists believe that we are still decades away from large scale practical implementation.

In short, such biofuels can be turned from a hydrogen steam that is meant to be used in adjoining fuel-cell. More major car brands have already invested in stations for biofuel-powered vehicles.

Homes

As well as being able to power transportation, the process of converting food waste to energy has potential for households. There are disposal units being sold which for personal use to make use of leftovers, but the reality is that these smaller digesters don’t produce enough energy to justify their usage. Standard large scale anaerobic digestion is still the most practical method.

In fact, the largest market for biofuel to turn into energy generation for over 350,000 homes from landfill gas in the United Kingdom.

Heat

Bioheat is a new term which has started to become more popular recently. In place of natural gases collected from fracking, homes can be heated from biofuel gases to bring down emissions.

Cleaning Oil Spills

Not only is the substance eco-friendly, but it can also be used to clean up and clear oil spills. After tests, biofuels have proven effective as a cleaning agent for crude oil spillage.

Later observations have also proven its ability to help with recovery time for the local environment and greatly reduce damage. Alternatively, it an be used as an industrial solvent for cleaning materials such as metal, with minimal risk to damaging the material compared to other substances commonly used.

food on table

Potential Hazards of Converting Food Waste to Energy

Just like other fuels commonly used, ethanol is flammable and therefore must be transported with proper precautions and regulations in place.

When ignited, high-purity biofuels will produce far fewer emissions of particulates and sulfur dioxide. Even when a mix of 20% biofuel is added to diesel (as is usually the case), the emissions are still greatly lowered compared to the derived counterparts.

Admittedly, biodiesel combustion may cause slightly higher amounts of nitrogen dioxide than petroleum or diesel.

Another important side note that many overlook is that ethanol mixtures have a higher octane level as well as higher evaporation levels.

This means that emissions can collect at ground level to form harmful smog.

In order to prevent this, further processing of the ethanol is required.

Is converting food waste to energy more cost-effective than nonrenewable energy sources?

You’ll get varied answers depending on where in the world you are standing when you ask that question.

America has one of the highest sale prices for biofuels, mainly due to their abundance of natural resources and well-optimised infrastructure to lower the production and transportation costs of traditional diesel and petroleum.

A gallon of natural gas could cost you around $3.20, whereas biogas would cost you $13.90.

At these prices, biofuel just can’t realistically compete. Other countries such as India have far more balanced pricing with a difference of $2.

Quality of biofuels. Will it cause more damage in the long run?

Every form of energy will come with some drawbacks.

Biofuel is no different – especially when plants are grown specifically for generating fuel.

Biofuel demand is currently only making up 55% of renewable energy and over 6% of the global energy supply.

The cost of damaging valuable habitats simply does more harm than good and we should be finding efficient ways to limit food waste, yet continue to make use of food waste for energy processes rather than add them to landfills.

Can I modify a petrol or diesel car to use biofuel?

Diesel

A benefit of buying a regular diesel engine car is that you are able to use a blended biofuel mix without the need for a conversion kit.

Most new cars are manufactured to handle carious biodiesel ratings.

Volkswagen is one of the only manufacturers that currently offer a warranty on vehicles being operated with biofuels.

Petrol

If you choose not to buy a car already fitted to run on biofuels you may install a conversion kit bio-ethanol E85.

The conversion manager costs between £395 and £495, this is dependent on the number of cylinders.

Is biofuel the future?

Aside from energy, the food creates another valuable byproduct: fertiliser.

Farmers & agricultural sites are able to buy back food which has been sent to digesters to use on their fields once again.

By using this fertiliser their soil quality is improving, crop yields are getting better and sold at higher cost as organic vegetables are now more expensive these days.

Can converting food waste to energy be harmful to humans?

In terms of global pollution, biofuels are far less dangerous than alternative options such as sending waste to landfill, which will create methane released into the atmosphere.

Whereas converting food waste to energy will result in us burning fuel which has lower emissions than the standard fuel options.

Just like other fuel types, they are of course highly flammable and must be handled with the same precautions we give to petroleum and diesel.

When burned, they can release into the o-zone which will remain lower at ground level for longer periods of time.

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