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Wasted food can be affordably turned into a clean substitute for fossil fuels.
New technology developed by researchers at the University of Waterloo engineers natural fermentation to produce a biodegradable chemical that can be refined as a source of energy.
Chemical - Chemicals - Host - Products - Drugs
The chemical could also be used to replace petroleum-based chemicals in a host of products including drugs and plastic packaging.
"People like me, environmental biotechnologists, look at food waste as a tremendous resource," said Hyung-Sool Lee, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Waterloo. "With the right technologies, we can extract numerous useful chemicals and fuel from it."
Food - North - America - Kilograms - Person
Wasted food in North America adds up to about 400 kilograms per person per year, with the worldwide economic loss estimated at $1.3 trillion every year. Most of that discarded food goes into landfills.
Technology already exists to reduce the environmental impact by diverting food waste, collecting methane gas as it is broken down by microorganisms and burning the gas to produce electricity.
Lee - System—known - Benefits - Costs - Food
But Lee said that system—known as anaerobic digestion—ultimately yields little or no net benefits when the high costs of food waste mixing and wastewater treatment are taken into account.
The technology developed at Waterloo dramatically cuts those costs by collecting and recirculating leachate—a microbial cocktail mixed with microorganisms and nutrients—that...
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