A new community housing development in the Bronx will feature an on-site biodigester that can turn 1,100 pounds of food scraps into 220 pounds of high-quality fertilizer every single day. A biodigester is basically a big stomach filled with bacteria that breaks down food scraps and wasted food into their component parts. Producing fertilizer right there in the city reduces the need for it to be trucked in from afar.
The Peninsula, organized by Gilbane Development Company, was selected to transform the former Spofford Juvenile Detention Center in the Bronx’s Hunts Point community into a 5-acre campus featuring 100% affordable housing, good jobs, and recreational space. The complex
will feature 740 units of affordable housing, 50,000 square-foot light industrial space and equal sized green space, and 15,000 feet of commercial space, all of which will send their food scraps into the digester.
Built by Harp Renewables, the biodigester will be the first ever in a New York residential building. Each year, nearly 4 million tons of New York’s organic waste end up in landfills. Digesters have the potential to turn one of building owners’ biggest problems into a payday and have the potential to become a standard part of all apartment units as the amount of food waste in America reaches 30% of the total mass of all trash collection.
Another problem these aerobic or bio-digesters could potentially help is pollution and greenhouse gas emissions since fertilizer is a big emitter of all three of the most-targeted GHGs. Food scraps emit more greenhouse gasses in the U.S. than airplanes but biodigesters are clean eaters. They don’t emit carbon dioxide or methane, and their output replaces synthetic fertilizers. Bio-digesters by design keep the CO2 and methane in the fertilizer produced, rather than it entering the atmosphere.
Fertilizer, like quarry dust and ammonia is often imported from countries who specialize in its production, such as Norway, but also Russia and Ukraine, whose conflict has recently highlighted the fragility of the supply chain with sharp price increases. This importation means thousands of tons of CO2 gets emitted during transportation.
The U.S. has over 2,200 biodigesters in all 50 states; 250 digesters on farms, 1,269 water resource recovery facilities are using biodigesters and 66 stand-alone systems. More than half of those used on farms and in industrial facilities are an energy resource for producing electricity or usable heat for operations at the facility. Biodigesters are slowly making their way into residential and industrial spaces around the country because they combat several issues. Digesters can last for decades if used correctly, paying off their initial investment and generating long-lasting returns.