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Dickinson College among recipients of anaerobic digestion grants


October 1, 2020
By U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has selected 12 recipients for approximately $3 million in funding. The money will be used to help reduce food loss and waste and to divert food waste from landfills by expanding anaerobic digester capacity in the U.S.

The project types selected for funding include feasibility studies and demonstration projects, as well as technical assistance and training. The EPA anticipates that it will make these awards once all legal and administrative requirements are satisfied.

One of the recipients is Dickinson College in Carlisle, Penn. The Dickinson College project will advance co-digestion of food waste in small-scale farm digesters in the mid-Atlantic region and nationally.

“The long-term benefits from this project will have a significant impact on Pennsylvania and other mid-Atlantic states,” said EPA regional administrator Cosmo Servidio. “These benefits include diverting food waste from disposal, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting renewable energy and improving water quality.”

The cornerstone of this project is a co-digestion demonstration for a dairy digester scaled to regionally common farm size (< 150 cows). This is significant for the mid-Atlantic region because there is currently no cost-effective model for digester operation on farms with less than 500 cows. These small-scale digesters could be effective in managing excess manure in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which could reduce pollutants reaching local streams and Chesapeake Bay.

The project builds on a program already established with the Dickinson College Farm and dining services, which diverts dining hall food waste to mini-digesters built by the college. Diversion of food waste from local schools and breweries will be incorporated into the program, amounting to approximately 350 tons of food waste diverted per year. To top it off, the project also includes research to optimize feedstocks, extensive outreach efforts, case studies and a video documentary.

“We are so excited and grateful to receive the EPA’s Anaerobic Digestion for Communities grant,” said Ken Shultes, associate vice-president for sustainability and facilities planning at Dickinson College.

“The grant will support our College Farm bio-digester project, which converts cow manure and food waste into electricity. This innovative project has so many important outcomes, including carbon reduction, improved water quality, landfill waste diversion, community engagement, cost savings and educational value.”

This anaerobic digestion funding opportunity is a part of EPA’s efforts and contributions to the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative, a partnership between the EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce food loss and waste through individual and combined federal action. that is preferable to landfilling/incineration because it reclaims valuable resources.

Anaerobic digestion is a strategy included in EPA’s food recovery hierarchy that is preferable to landfilling/incineration because it reclaims valuable resources. Keeping food waste from landfills, such as transforming it into fuel or fertilizer, can save money and reduce environmental impacts.

The other organizations selected for funding are:

  • Central New York Technology Development Organization (Liverpool, N.Y.);
  • Center for EcoTechnology (Pittsfield, Mass);
  • City of Oxnard (Oxnard, Calif.);
  • Emory University (Atlanta, Ga.);
  • Montana State University (Bozeman, Mont.);
  • North Central Texas Council of Governments (Arlington, Texas);
  • Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton, Fla.);
  • University of California-Davis (Davis, Calif.);
  • University of Illinois-Chicago (Chicago, Ill.);
  • University of Missouri-Columbia (Columbia, Mo.);
  • Washington State University (Pullman, Wash.).