TURNING KITCHEN WASTE INTO CLEAN ENERGY: HOMEBIOGAS’ WASTE-TO-ENERGY INNOVATION

Talk of saving your waste for use as fuel and fertilizer! Would you ‘waste your kitchen waste’ (pun intended) after learning that a day’s worth of waste could sustainably earn you 2 hours of uninterrupted biogas use and rich fertilizer sludge for growing your crops? According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), developing countries like Kenya have a per capita food waste levels (Which include domestic waste) at about 6-11Kg per year. The total per capita food waste in these countries stands at 460 Kg annually. All you need is 6 Kg of this waste daily to afford yourself upto 3 hours of daily gas use, which is literally all the cooking duration for all three meals in a day.

Well, as the name suggests, HomeBiogas is an Israeli clean energy innovation company that develops simple, collapsible, waste assemblage-and-biogas generator bags where organic matter such as domestic and commercial food scraps are disposed and thereafter anaerobic fermentation of the waste is carried out by bacteria, into biogas and liquid fertilizer for domestic use. The HomeBiogas innovation is one that truly completes the ‘food-waste-energy-food’ cycle, and which thereby overally sanitizes our landfills and atmosphere. It is common knowledge that leftovers or unhygienic food scraps may not be, and are not palatable, respectively, but their caloric value cannot be overlooked. The caloric potential of discarded food is enough to produce energy that can be used in the home for cooking, heating and lighting.

How Does The System Work?

First of all, what you need is some considerable backyard footprint on which to assemble the contraption, and secondly, access to direct sunlight, the latter which spurs optimal bacterial growth and activity for methane gas-generation. It’s a Do-it-yourself installation process with all the fitment accessories shipped alongside the kit. Before you feed the waste into the system and begin using it, one needs to ‘activate’ it by use of bacteria resident in animal manure. That activation implies that you create an environment for the bacteria to thrive so that waste is subsequently turned into gas, faster. If animal manure is not readily accessible to a home, HomeBiogas offers readily-available bacteria.

Upto 12 liters (or 12 Kgs) of food or animal waste can be fed through a funnel, into a collapsible system sink (waste bag) on a daily basis. In the bag, the waste is decomposed through anaerobic bacterial action and methane gas is produced. The emitted gas travels all the way up through another gas-filter pipe into the gas bag, where it is stored under low pressure. The generated biogas is passed through the filtering pipe to eliminate any unpleasant odors and toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide from the bacterial activity. Weights are placed on the gas chamber where the gas is collected, in order to standardize and stabilize the ‘exit pressure’ through the pipes that are connected to the cookstove.

There are a number of pros with the system. First of all, it accommodates and decomposes all kinds of organic waste, including meat, vegetable and dairy waste. It incidentally produces rich organic fertilizer slurry, which is tapped and fed to plants which then grow into food, and thereafter provide organic waste in further cycles. Further, unlike open composting systems, its air-tight quality ensures that it harbors no insects and rodents in the home. It, therefore, functions as a complete ecosystem of sorts. Lastly, the biodigester's gas bag has a 700-liter capacity of biogas at any time, which is about 700kg of cooking gas. The ultimate sauce of this innovation lies in its simplicity, free availability of organic fuel matter and the overall environmental impact it achieves with the cleaning of landfills.

What Is The Innovation’s Impact & Further Potential Impact?

So far the company has installed 500 units of the system globally and has been fundraising on Kickstarter, and now IndieGogo, to scale up its global operations. There has been immense success with the innovation, registered worldwide, with installations having been made in 56 countries around the world, including Kenya, Uganda, Argentina, USA, Australia, Jordan and many more.

The system’s gas chamber has a 700kg gas capacity, which is almost a sevenfold capacity of what an average Kenyan home uses. In Kenya, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is sold in 6kg, 12kg and 13kg capacities, for various domestic needs. An average Kenyan home expends about 12kg of gas in about 6 weeks (With moderate cooking). A 12kg gas cylinder-refill currently retails at a volatile average price of $23. That means that in a year, an average Kenyan consumes 96kg of liquefied petroleum gas which means an expenditure of $184 on gas refills alone. With just a one-time purchase price of $990 of the HomeBiogas system, (which is poised to recalculate upwards soon) the average Kenyan home could save more than 100% of its current expenditure on energy for a lifetime.

Commercially, the innovation can play a very big role in reducing energy overheads of institutions such as restaurants, hotels, schools and hospitals. The reason is owing to relatively large economies of food consumption and the resultant waste generation. 1.3 Billion tons of waste is generated globally, a lot of which ends up in landfills and increase the carbon footprint, and hence a disturbance on the climate equilibrium. Methane as a gas that traps heat generated from the sun and so disturbs our ecological sanity, contributes to 25% of the global warming, and a lot of it is generated from the waste in landfills. This innovation cycles methane back to domestic consumption. Using this kit, one household can reduce 6 tons of carbon emissions annually. If only 1/3rd of the global population can adopt such an innovation to harness such waste before they are released into our landfills, then about 120 billion of carbon emissions can be reduced globally, which is not a mean feat as far as climate change mitigation is concerned.

We need to urgently rethink our environmental future through adopting this clean energy and waste-management innovation. Otherwise, let us support the HomeBiogas Company in its scale-up phase through contributing to their fundraising campaign here on IndieGoGo, as the kickstarter campaign came to an end: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/homebiogas-2-0-transform-food-waste-i...