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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Turning food waste into energy

Sludge
Sludge

The next time you waste leftovers or can’t finish the rest of a meal, you might take comfort in knowing that the food you’re throwing away is enjoying a second life as energy-producing sludge. That’s right, sludge.
Despite the demands of planning the yearly Harvest Your Energy Festival, the Medford Energy Committee took the time to announce its newest energy saving project at the October meeting.  In response to a commercial food waste ban taking place in the state in 2014, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Executive Director Fred Lasky unveiled a new composting initiative that could double energy production on Deer Island for the city of Medford. 
By implementing new technology at the Deer Island plant, food waste from the city of Medford, or “sludge” as Lasky referred to it, would be broken down into methane gas which could then be converted to energy for the city to use. 
Lasky believes that the project could have the potential to raise electricity production on Deer Island from 25 percent to 50 percent.  “In combination with the other energy harvesting resources in the city, such as solar power and the wind turbine, we could possibly see as much as 75 percent of the total energy demand of Medford being met right here,” Lasky said.
Still in the planning stages, the initiative would not come into effect until July 2014 when the food waste ban is also slated to begin.  Between now and then, Medford would have to raise as much as 30 million dollars for upgrades to the infrastructure on Deer Island. These upgrades could include the installation of new pipelines and vehicles to transport waste. Currently the city of Medford is working on getting grants and hiring private companies to explore the full potential of the composting program.
Although attendance at the meetings is usually composed of only the committee members themselves, Medford resident Linda Malik came out to hear the special MWRA composting presentation. 
Malik, a former conservationist with the National Environmental Education Foundation, believes Medford is on its way to becoming the example for conservation work in Massachusetts.  “Medford is part of so many exciting projects and initiatives to reduce waste and produce energy,” Malik said, “I hope one day we’ll be so far ahead of other towns that people will be asking, ‘Cambridge, who?’” 
As Malik points out, the composting project is just one of many strides Medford is taking to conserve energy. In Jan. 2009, the city erected the McGlynn School wind turbine. This turbine saves the city roughly $25,000 per year on electrical costs and reduces green house gas emissions as well. 
Most recently, Medford has been working with National Grid to encourage residents to receive a free home energy audit and take the recommended steps to ensure their residence is energy efficient.  For each customer willing to take those steps, National Grid is offering the city of Medford an energy credit for future projects.  Committee member Rick Sacco is living proof of the success of these collaborations.
“I spent $2700 making the changes to my home that were suggested to me,” Sacco said,  “After the rebate I got and the full tank of oil I saved that year, it paid for itself, and I’m still saving $700 a year on oil.  Plus, the city got a credit from National Grid.  How can you go wrong?”
It’s obvious that the city of Medford is enjoying great success in its conservation endeavors.  Will sludge be the key to bringing the city to the forefront of energy saving in Massachusetts?  Committee members and residents like Malik hope so.