Apples to Energy: Achieving Pittsburgh, PA's Climate Action Goals Using Food Waste as a Feedstock for Anaerobic Digestion

Anaerobic digestion utilizes biomass feedstocks from farms, wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), landfills, and municipalities to generate biogas, which contains methane, a potent greenhouse gas (GHG). Because methane has ~34x the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide, it is necessary to manage the methane produced through anaerobic digestion by harnessing the gas for energy as heat and electricity. Pennsylvania generates 1.1 million tons of food waste per year, which could be used to generate a significant amount of methane. Pittsburgh’s Climate Action Plan includes goals to install 200MW of renewable energy by 2030 and to have an 80% GHG reduction from 2003 levels by 2050. Implementing anaerobic digesters (ADs) would help Pittsburgh meet some of these goals. However, the city does not currently have any ADs, and there have not been estimates regarding the total amount of feedstocks that could be used to generate energy. In this study, average US Census data from restaurants, nursing homes, hospitals, grocery stores, food manufacturers, and universities were obtained to estimate the total amount of recoverable pre- and post- consumer food waste in Pittsburgh. This data was used to estimate the total amount of energy that could be generated for the city as well as the possible GHG reductions by comparing CO 2 and CH 4 production in three possible food waste scenarios (landfill to flare, landfill to electricity generation, and AD to renewable natural gas & carbon capture and storage). Pittsburgh could achieve a significant amount of their GHG reduction goals & produce a significant amount of energy based on feedstock estimates. Thus, Pittsburgh should consider implementing ADs.

Monday Poster Session
Sarah Schanwald
Related Conference Themes
Electricity Generation