Southington Plant Will Turn Local Food Waste to Energy

|| January 14, 2014

SOUTHINGTON — Mountains full of different colored mulch covered acres of land on the former landfill on DePaolo Drive Monday morning as trucks made their way in and out of the mulch-processing facility created by Supreme Forest Industries of Harwinton.

If all goes according to plan, local supermarkets, hotels and other businesses could be utilizing a waste-to-energy service approved by the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission last week to occupy the area alongside the mulch operation by December.

It would be operated by a company called Quantum Biopower, a division of Supreme Forest Industries. 

A law went into effect this month requiring certain food and wholesale distributors to recycle organic material to help cut back on landfill use and to create alternate sources of energy.

Chris Nelson, the supervising environmental analyst with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the law requires businesses that generate 104 tons of food waste per year or 2 tons a week to recycle their material if there is a facility within 20 miles that can take it. Businesses include supermarkets, resorts, commercial food wholesalers and others.

“The purpose of the law is to spur development of organics recycling facilities to help close our processing infrastructure gap,” Nelson said. “More facilities were needed to process organics, and this law compels certain generators of that material to participate in nearby facilities when available.”

Supreme Forest purchased the B&R Corp. parcel at 49 DePaolo Drive, adjacent to the mulch processing operation, for the new service. The plant would occupy about 35 acres on the north end of the site. About 120 tons of waste per day, or 40,000 tons a year, would be the maximum the site could take in. The companies would work with local haulers in the area to get the waste from the businesses to the site.

The anaerobic digestion facility will decompose food waste and turn it into energy. It includes packaged or unpackaged food waste, food that may have spoiled at the store or scraps from dinner plates. Compost and methane are produced by the digester. The compost can be added to the tree and leaf compost at the mulch-processing facility or turned into a biogas product. Energy created from the waste could generate enough power for 600 houses.

Anaerobic digestion is a “natural process” that relies on “bacteria and microbial activity” to break down the food waste, said Brian Paganini, program manager for Quantum Biopower.

“Waste (implies) having an end usage. We say it’s really material… it can have one more use out of it,” Paganini said.

With local approval from the PZC, the company is working to obtain permits from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Southington “is one of the first places around to get something like this,” said Michael DelSanto, the PZC chairman. “It’s good to know that Southington is open-minded enough to take on such a kind of facility.”

Paganini said the plant has the potential to save the town and local businesses money by avoiding the cost to bring it to landfills or trash incinerators.

“They want to do it but don’t know how to get rid of it, that’s where we come in,” Paganini said. “It’s exciting, it’s different, it’s new, and it’s changing.”

Supreme Forest Products, a division of Supreme Forest Industries, specializes in land clearing, chipping and grinding, also has a wood waste reduction and recycling division that processes trees, leaves, brush, and stumps.

Town Economic Development Coordinator Louis Perillo said since the leaf mulching facility was put into place it has saved the town $22,000 a year because the town no longer has to rent a leaf composting site.

“And they’re processing it, and they’re paying taxes,” Perillo said. “We definitely hit a home run with this.”

“It’s amazing to take a banana peel and turn it into energy,” DelSanto said. “It’s incredible what they do. It’s the way of the future, this renewable energy.”

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