BITS of steak, stale bread and rotten eggs will soon be put to
good use, thanks to a new facility in Marina that transforms
organic waste into compost for fertilizer and methane gas,
which can be converted to electricity.
A $2 million “dry anaerobic digestion” plant at the Monterey
Regional Waste Management District’s landfill will convert
restaurants’ food waste and garden clippings from businesses
into biogas, which will be used to power and heat the nearby
Monterey waste treatment plant.
The facility will also produce compost for county agricultural
growers, reduce greenhouse gases and odor, and limit the
amount of organic waste that would otherwise go into the
landfill, according to Jeff Lindenthal with the waste
“It represents the next frontier in managing urban organics,”
Lindenthal told the Pine Cone. “We are very pleased to have
this opportunity to test this technology.”
On Friday, the waste management district is set to unveil the
plant — a collaboration between the MRWMD and Lafayette-based
Zero Waste Energy, a firm that licenses the technology from
German engineering company Eggersmann Anlagenbau.
The facility is housed in a prefabricated modular 50-foot-
by-100-foot building. Trucks pull up to the facility, unload
the organic waste into one of four bays, and a 21-day
digestion process begins. A percolet of liquid bacteria is
introduced to break down the waste. When the process is
complete, the organic waste becomes fertile soil.
“It produces a very high quality, nitrogen-rich compost, which
is in high demand in the agricultural world,” Zero Waste
Energy’s senior vice president of business development, Dirk
Dudgeon, told The Pine Cone.
The methane gas produced from the decomposing waste is
captured and turned into biogas, which will be sold to the
water pollution control agency to reduce the demand of
electricity the agency purchases from PG&E, Lindenthal
The digester will process up to 5,000 tons per year of organic
Though sewage treatment plants use organisms to break down
wastewater, the dry anaerobic digesters at the Marina landfill
use a different process, which Zero Waste Energy contends is
more efficient and less expensive.
While the technology is relatively new to the United States,
there are more than 8,000 anaerobic digesting facilities in
Europe, with more than 20,000 planned by 2020.
Dudgeon said that in many parts of Europe, it’s illegal to put
food waste in landfills.
And the facility, he added, will be compliant with a 2020
California mandate requiring a 75 percent reduction of organic
waste in landfills.
“The only way to do that is to get the organics out of the
waste stream,” Dudgeon said.
The Marina facility is the first dry anaerobic digester
facility in the state; however, there are as many as 30 others
in California that are in the planning stages.
Right now, the facility will only process organic waste
generated from restaurants, not from residences.
Businesses that participate in the program will pay about $200
per month to have their food waste hauled away. But Lindenthal
said it could pay off for some restaurants, since it can lower
the volume of non-organic trash that goes to the landfill,
thereby lowering the cost of collection.
And as more businesses join the program, it will help bring
the monthly cost down, he said.
The waste management district paid for some construction work
to accommodate the digester but didn’t pay for the facility
itself, which was installed at Zero Waste Energy’s expense.
“We really benefit from the opportunity to test this
technology,” Lindenthal said, “and hopefully to negotiate a
deal with Zero Waste Energy in the future.”
The landfill’s contract with Zero Waste — which will get the
profits from the sale of electricity to the water pollution
control agency — is for three years with two one-year options
to renew, he said.
Dudgeon said the company is also building similar but larger
plants in San Jose and South San Francisco.