A $1,000 appliance in the garden could help weather the fuel crisis
Households can now turn their food scraps – and toilet waste – into cooking gas.
The Israeli startup HomeBiogas has developed a compact and affordable version of industrial equipment usually operated by large companies and municipalities.
Its miniaturized anaerobic digester – which turns organic waste into gas – looks like an inflatable version of a two-person tent and costs less than $1,000.
Just throw away your leftover food (you can also connect it to your toilet) and the bacteria will break it all down into biogas.
It’s routed to a dedicated countertop cooker in your kitchen and is enough for two hours of cooking a day. It also creates a rich fertilizer from organic waste that can be used for your outdoor garden.
“Enzymes eat your food waste and ‘pass gas’ like most organisms do. You effectively capture the gas and use it to cook or heat water,” says HomeBiogas Board Member Ron Gonen.
He says the digester can pay for itself in a year, based on US savings on waste collection and energy bills.
Other companies have tried to develop small-scale anaerobic digesters, but none have been able to do so at the cost of HomeBiogas, Gonen says. So far, more than 15,000 units have been sold in 107 countries.
“Until six months ago, Europe considered itself to have constant access to cheap gas thanks to gas coming from Russia,” he told NoCamels.
“Now everyone is trying to figure out how to replace this gas. And usually the default is “we’re going to have to build big coal or nuclear plants, or get natural gas somewhere else and refine it.”
“These are all mega-facilities that take years and hundreds of millions of dollars to build. I think when people see the HomeBiogas system and recognize that they can start generating their own gas off-site and from their own food and bio waste, I think it will be really popular.
The United States throws away more food than any other country in the world – about 40 million tons each year. It makes up 30-40% of the entire US food supply, and most of it ends up directly in landfills. Food is the single largest component that takes up space in US landfills and accounts for more than a fifth of all trash.
Despite these statistics, the United States only has about 200 facilities that accept food waste from institutions, venues, stores, and restaurants and turn it into energy.
“Every time I sit down in a restaurant and see plates being taken away, I just think ‘oh my god, that’s so much,'” says Mira Marcus, public relations for HomeBiogas. “Food waste is not a problem – it’s a solution, it’s a resource. We need to start thinking about it differently.
Besides reducing electricity bills, using leftover food and other organic waste to create gas offers many benefits.
The decomposition of food in landfills generates greenhouse gases (GHGs), including methane and carbon dioxide, and accounts for more than a tenth of global emissions. According to the World Wildlife Federation, the production of wasted food in the United States is equivalent to the GHG emissions of 37 million cars – due to waste emissions and transporting waste to landfills via diesel trucks.
HomeBiogas has international projects and collaborations with governments, aid agencies and humanitarian organizations, such as: EU, UN, International Red Cross, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Peres Center for peace and innovation, WWF and other projects with various UN committees in Liberia and Gaza. It also has distribution partnerships in several African countries, including Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya.
And last November, HomeBiogas won a UN agreement to supply its systems to refugee camps in several African countries. Large amounts of organic waste are produced in refugee camps, are expensive to dispose of and cause health and environmental problems.
HomeBiogas launched its first industrial systems in the communal kitchen of Kibbutz Yagur in northern Israel, as well as a boarding school in Neurim in central Israel, where it is helping children learn about sustainability, and in an IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) base. He also collaborates with a high-end luxury hotel in Israel.
The system was also used during AMADEE-20, the most advanced simulation of a manned Mars mission ever, last October at the Ramon Crater in southern Israel. It is one of the few places on Earth that resembles conditions on Mars. During the three-week mission, the astronauts used HomeBiogas to manage their organic waste.
HomeBiogas is currently in discussions with municipalities, restaurants, convention centers, hotels, multi-family developments and hospitality industries around the world who are looking for solutions to their organic waste.