Bill would incentivize biogas development in Rhode Island

By Erin Voegele | January 17, 2014

Legislation recently introduced in the Rhode Island House of Representatives aims to extend the life of the state’s central landfill by redirecting food waste for the production of energy and compost. The measure, H 7033, would phase in a requirement that all non-residential food waste be separated from waste headed for the landfill and recycled or otherwise processed in a useful way, provided there is a facility available. The bill was introduced by Rep. Donna Walsh.

“Tossing food scraps in the landfill is wasteful on so many levels. Instead of letting this organic material fill up valuable landfill space, we ought to be looking to Europe’s example and putting our food waste to work. With the proper facilities, it can be used to fuel power plants, and it can always be composted on small and large scales to create fertilizer. We might as well be tossing money in the landfill when we put food scraps in there,” Walsh said.

According to information released by Walsh’s office, she got the idea for the legislation during a recent tour of Quonset Business Park, where she learned about a company called NEO Energy that is working to establish an anaerobic digestion plant.

The legislation would phase in the requirement, beginning with the largest producers. According to the text of the bill, beginning in 2015, entities that produce more than 52 tons per year of food residues would be subject to the requirement. In 2019, the measure would scale-up to implement the requirement for entities that produce 18 tons per year of food residuals. In 2021, all businesses and institutions would be subject to the requirements.

The bill specifies that that the impacted businesses and organizations would be required to separate food wastes and channel them to a recycling program if the facility producing the waste is located within 20 miles of an organics recycling facility that has the capacity and is willing to accept the food residuals.

According to Walsh’s office, while the legislation promotes the use of anaerobic digestion systems, it would not require anyone to use them. As long as they are not throwing food waste in the regular trash, institutions would be free to process food waste on their own either through composting or food digesters that convert food waste to compost and mulch.

A full copy of the legislation is available here.