Last updated on January 12th, 2017 at 10:01 am
Northgate Markets offers its shoppers a wide selection of fresh, healthy food like guacamoles and ceviches, but that creates a dilemma: What should be done with the food scraps?
For Northgate Markets, these scraps add up quickly: Just one store in the Southern California chain uses six cases of avocados each day to prepare guacamole and other fresh items. That’s nearly 300 avocado pits and skins that require disposal—somewhere other than a landfill, thanks to California legislation that went into effect in April.
Northgate’s solution is Grind2Energy, Emerson’s system to turn food waste into energy. The markets are the first in California to use the system.
“Before Grind2Energy, we were spending hours each day composting our food scraps,” said Keith McCarron, director of distribution for Northgate Markets. “Grind2Energy has given us a way to dispose of this waste in a clean, orderly way without spending a lot of time or taking up valuable space, like composting does. And even better, we’re able to turn food scraps into energy and into a positive for both Northgate and the environment.”
Through Grind2Energy’s process, food waste is ground at Northgate Markets using a specially engineered, industrial-strength InSinkErator grinder. The food waste is converted into a slurry, which is safely stored in sealed tanks before being transported to the Joint Water Pollution Control Plant, a Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County facility and one of the largest wastewater treatment plants in the world.
From there, the material is put into an anaerobic digester where bacteria and other microbes snack on the decomposing food in enclosed tanks. As the waste breaks down, the microbes release methane—which is then captured and used to generate energy.
In addition to the environmental benefit, Grind2Energy helps chains like Northgate Markets meet guidelines set forth by the Mandatory Commercial Organics Bill. The legislation requires high-volume commercial operations, such as supermarkets, to divert food waste from landfills.
Northgate Markets’ results already have been significant. Renewable energy created from the chain’s food scraps has been enough to power 53 homes and heat 78 homes for a month. The food scraps have generated 20,394 pounds of nutrient-rich fertilizer. They’ve also made a big impact on greenhouse gas emissions, eliminating the equivalent of driving 234,385 miles.