Reducing food waste is focus of federal legislation, Blumenthal says

New Haven Register || October 26, 2018

Legislation passed earlier this year by the U.S. Senate and now being considered by the House of Representatives calls for spending $25 million to launch pilot programs nationwide to reduce food waste.

That’s good news for Connecticut’s fledgling food waste reduction industry, which includes a small but growing field of companies. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., visited one of those companies, Hartford-based Blue Earth Compost, on Tuesday in an effort to call attention to the legislation.

“We waste too much food as a society,” Blumenthal said during his visit to Blue Earth, which is based out of an old industrial complex in Hartford’s North Meadows section. “Forty percent of all food is wasted. The whole idea (of the pilot program funding) is to provide the resources to really get this thing going.”

Samuel King, who refers to himself as Blue Earth’s marketing and business development “guru,” said the pilot program provision, if approved, “would open us up to service hundreds of new customers.”

“Rather than contracting with just individual homes, we’d be looking to serve entire municipalities, which would benefit from the cost saving,” King said. By removing food waste from the trash, communities would realize savings because garbage haulers get paid by the weight of their loads, he said.

Right now, there are three companies in Connecticut that provide residential food scrap collection, according to King. One is New Haven-based Peels & Wheels Composting, which serves customers in the city’s Wooster Square, East Rock and Prospect Hill neighborhoods.

The food waste pilot program provision is part of the Senate’s version of a larger bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 or Farm Bill, that passed the legislative body earlier this year. The Farm Bill is before a congressional conference committee, which will work to combine the Senate and House versions into a single piece of legislation.

Right now, Blue Earth Compost has 220 residential customers in Hartford and surrounding communities as well as commercial/institutional subscribers that include Trinity College and Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford. Owner Alex Williams founded the company in 2013.

The subscription fee for Blue Earth’s services is $30 per month for weekly pickup and $20 per month for having food scraps collected every other week, Williams said.

Blue Earth provides its customers with containers to collect the food scraps . Once the scraps are collected from customers, they are taken to Quantum Biopower in Southington.

Quantum Biopower uses as anaerobic digester to turn rotting food waste into methane gas to produce electricity.

High levels of heat are applied to the liquefied trash produced by the anaerobic digester. The super-heated liquid becomes a methane gas used to produce electricity for Southington’s municipal buildings, sold to the town at a reduced rate that will lower what the town spends on energy annually for the next 20 years.

Solids left from the process are used to create compost, which Blue Earth’s customers get as part of their subscription fee.

“We are partners with Quantum, not competitors,” Williams said. “They need the food waste we provide to keep their plant running.”