When you go to a restaurant to eat, what are the typical things on your mind? What you want to eat, whether your server is being nice or not and if you like the environment of the restaurant – those are the things on most people’s minds. But what happens once all the food is cooked. Where does the waste go that restaurants generate from cooking?
Typically, restaurants will have the waste taken to landfills for them to deal with. However, according to Sparing Sewers All That Restaurant Grease, an article on NYTimes.com, there is a more environmentally friendly way to deal with the greasy waste, thanks to wastewater plants.
According to the article by Sophia Li, wastewater plants typically use the most electricity of any other city service – sometimes up to 40 percent of the total energy used – as reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. To help combat that staggering energy usage, a wastewater treatment plant in Gresham, Ore., has begun using restaurant waste in its anaerobic digesters to produce a mix of methane and carbon dioxide that the plant, in turn, uses to help power its plant. By adding the greasy restaurant waste to the mix, anaerobic digesters will produce up to 40 percent more gas, which means more self-produced energy.
In addition to helping the environment, recycling greasy restaurant waste has financial benefits, as well. The city of Gresham provided a grant to the wastewater plant to help take in the grease, but only after realizing that this project would pay for itself in two and a half years. The plant can generate money by taking in about 10,000 gallons of grease a day, and for that, the haulers pay eight cents for each gallon the plant takes. In addition to that, the city expects to save 15 to 20 percent on the plant’s electric bill, which can amount to $230,000 each year.
The goal, eventually, is to become completely self-sufficient through the anaerobic digesters. While that is about two years down the road for this plant, which serves about 120,000 people, setting an example for other plants is something it has already accomplished.