A Maryland company – BioEnergy DevCo (BDC) – said it has found a sustainable solution to handling organic waste and plans to build the regions first anaerobic digestion facility that will allow up to 100,000 tons of organic waste to be sustainably processed.
“BDC is a rare company that can simultaneously improve the bottom line for our customers and help the environment.” said Shawn Kreloff, CEO Bioenergy DevCo. “If you have fruit and vegetable trimmings, meats, fish, manures- any organics that you now take to already crowded landfills or incinerators, even waste contaminated by paper and plastic to farms, BDC and its anaerobic digesters can lower your costs of disposal and improve your margins.”
Anaerobic digestion harvests energy by harnessing the power of microorganisms to break down, or digest, biodegradable waste in air-tight tanks without oxygen. The resulting product is captured, refined, and used as a renewable natural gas to help power nearby businesses or fleet vehicles. Besides renewable natural gas, organic soil amendment products are produced during the process which can be used in storm water management, land development, horticulture and agriculture.
Kreloff, an entrepreneur with more than 25 years of investing in and working with technology driven companies, was aware that the cost of waste removal in the United States was increasing exponentially with the number of landfills and incinerators, two of the most frequently utilized landing spots for commercial waste, diminishing. So, he turned to BTS Biogas, an Italian firm which has successfully pioneered the European anaerobic digestor processing model. Widely used throughout Europe, the company and its affiliates have more than 200 plants now in operation in six European countries, the UK, South America and Japan.
“I personally witnessed the success that anaerobic digestion offers,” said Kreloff. “By bringing this unique technology to North America, we knew we could provide a beneficial service to those companies seeking organic waste solutions and be good environmental neighbors as well.”
Kreloff cited a recent report from the New York governor’s office which noted that organics comprise 31 percent of New York City’s residential waste stream.
In landfills, this organic waste decomposes, releasing methane gas. In incinerators, it is of poor energy value and a potential pollutant. However, energy-rich food waste can also be processed through anaerobic digestion, creating methane gas that can be captured and used as an alternative to natural gas. This same material creates an organically rich digestate, or soil amendment, that can be used directly in storm water management, in replenishing soils and can be composted and converted into a rich organic product that can replenish the city’s soil.
Two other key members of the BDC team are Peter Ettinger and Vinnie Bevivino. Ettinger serves as VP-business development and operations and Bevivino is BDC’s director of organics.
Ettinger is currently developing practices and strategies that will transition the company from a planning mode to a live one.
“Anaerobic digestion is a new technology for most of our potential clients, so working together in identifying the opportunities in reduced waste cost, in managing energy costs and improving sustainability of their business is an important first step,” said Ettinger who has been involved with entrepreneurial-oriented companies (including several of his own) over the past 25 years.
“As we visit with local food, grocery and fresh cut businesses who fit our profile, all note the rising cost of waste and a need to find improved sustainability solutions. It’s still early in our mission, but I think we’ve changed a few perceptions and am hopeful we are going to develop some strong partnerships when we open the facility.”
Among the reasons that BDC decided to locate its first anaerobic digester in Jessup was the centralized location of the MFCA facility as well as being in close proximity to many distributors and manufacturers in the area. Part of BDC’s business model calls for the company to pick up food waste and process it at their facility at a price that’s lower than sending it to a landfill or incinerator. By using anaerobic digestion, carbon is returned to the earth thereby reducing greenhouse gases and truck traffic while at the same time creating a renewable fuel. BDC will have equipment to separate food from packaging, allowing for the receipt of food waste in bags, plastic containers, or cardboard boxes. The fledgling firm will also work with its clients to ensure that no glass or mixed waste that contains excessive amount of packaging and other non-biodegradable material are included.
As director of organics, Bevivino is passionate about developing food waste recycling infrastructure. He founded Chesapeake Compost Works, at the time the largest food waste composting facility in Maryland. There he and his team received 18,000 tons of material per year from many of the region’s largest food waste generators and processed it into a line of bagged compost-based soil amendments sold throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Now at BDC, he’s responsible for outreach and marketing to the region’s food processors, distributors, and retailors, and explaining to them the economic and environmental benefits of recycling food waste in an anaerobic digester instead of sending it to a landfill.
Bevivino explained, “100,000 tons per year may sound like a lot, but you have to remember that we’re situated amongst the companies largely responsible for keeping the Mid-Atlantic region fed. It’s been exciting to meet with food business owners and operators, learn their challenges, and develop solutions that don’t just improve the business’s environmental footprint, but also its bottom line.”
After meeting with Bevivino, Ettinger and Kreloff, it was obvious that all three are confident that their new business initiative will be successful. They are also very proud that they are developing a system that will serve as a practical customer solution for organic waste while also aiding the environment.
According to Don Darnall, executive director of the MFCA, “What made BDC different is they didn’t meet with me to sell a machine, but came in and said, ‘We want your waste, and in exchange, we can offer a lower cost to dispose it.’ They knew challenges specific to dairy farms and other fresh food production and distribution facilities and looked to create a plan specific to our needs.”
Another supporter of the company’s initiative is Jason Lambros, VP-food at Coastal Sunbelt. “As a leading independent fresh produce distributor, Coastal Sunbelt is excited to partner with BioEnergy Development Group. Using the latest green technology, BDC will convert our fresh produce trimmings as well as surplus produce that cannot be donated into renewable energy. The sustainable benefits of this partnership and process will move the dial for a greener future for our business and community.”
Kreloff noted that BDC is investing about $20 million to build its anaerobic digester and to create the infrastructure to support it. About 20 new jobs will be created when the facility opens. He added that the company hopes to build additional digestors in the Mid-Atlantic and can also custom build digesters for those firms that want to keep the process on site.