One third of all food produced around the world gets discarded uneaten, and environmentalists, energy analysts and entrepreneurs are beginning to take notice. With the untapped potential for generating energy, researchers have begun to notice food waste as a way of powering vehicles. Waste-to-energy (WTE) is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing segments of the energy sector. Navigant Research, which produced the 2012 report “Waste-to-Energy Technology Markets, which analyzes the global market opportunity for WTE, expects waste-to-energy to grow from its current market size of $6.2 billion to $29.2 billion by 2022.”
Researchers at Katholieke University (KU) Leuven in Belgium, have made it possible to convert sawdust into gasoline, which can help existing gas plants generate greener fuel. The ready to use recipe converts cellulose, the main component of plant fibers, in the sawdust into hydrocarbon chains. Used as an additive in gasoline, the researchers have created a second generation biofuel. “We start with plant waste and use a chemical process to make a product that is a perfect replica of its petrochemical counterpart. In the end product, you can only tell the difference with fossil gasoline using carbon dating” describes Professor Bert Sels.
Questions remain on whether individuals and governments will support a separate stream of diversion of waste. However, the endless source of food waste provide motivation for market that seems available for the taken. “We’re barely scratching the surface of this potential—dumping over 70 percent of the world’s food waste into landfills, rather than harnessing it for fuel and electricity,” reports RWL. “Over the next 25 years, global energy demand will grow by 50 percent, while global oil supply dwindles at a rapid pace. Waste-to-energy is an obvious solution to meet the world’s burgeoning energy demand.”