City Beat

Food waste from Sacramento neighborhood will be converted into fuel

Leftover spaghetti from homes in Sacramento’s Elmhurst neighborhood is being turned into fuel for garbage trucks.

In a program that city officials hope to someday expand to other neighborhoods, about 1,000 homeowners in Elmhurst have begun placing food scraps into their yard waste bins. The refuse will be taken to a high-tech facility where it will be converted into biofuel.

Councilman Kevin McCarty launched the one-year test program in Elmhurst. The neighborhood near the UC Davis Medical Center campus was chosen because it is serviced by a single yard waste collection truck, making it easier for the city to track how many homes are taking advantage of the program.

The neighborhood also has a strong communication network, and city officials are hopeful residents will share their experiences.

Elmhurst residents were recently given small bins to hold food waste. The city purchased the bins for about $4 apiece.

Residents must place their food refuse in plastic bags – such as those given out at grocery stores – and can store those bags in the bins. The scraps will then be dropped into the yard waste bins collected each week. The program will take all types of food.

The yard waste is taken to a transfer station, where the food is separated from leaves, grass and other lawn trimmings. The food scraps are then shipped to a facility operated by Clean World Partners, which uses a biodigester to convert the waste into fuel.

That fuel is used to power waste collection trucks around the region. Erin Treadwell, a spokeswoman with the city’s solid waste division, said the city operates 13 trucks that are fueled at the Clean World Partners facility on Fruitridge Road.

“Recycling this food waste and turning it into fuel moves our city toward being greener and smarter,” McCarty said.

McCarty said the city has explored the pilot program for about one year. He said about 100 cities around the country have some form of food waste collection program, including San Francisco and Portland, Ore.

Steve Harriman, the city’s integrated waste general manager, said the test program “will provide the city important data that will help inform future waste disposal efforts.”

“We’ll learn the makeup of the types of food and yard waste that will be collected so we can plan for the appropriate types of facilities that could efficiently convert Sacramento’s unique food/yard waste mixture into fuel or other reusable products,” he said.

An estimated 25 percent of garbage collected from homes in Sacramento is food waste. While city officials would like to expand the Elmhurst project, the city does not have a facility right now big enough to process the food waste from the more than 100,000 homes in Sacramento, Treadwell said.