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North Elba could recycle food scraps to grow more food

Town hears proposal to build anaerobic digester

North Elba Supervisor Robert "Roby" Politi

North Elba Supervisor Robert "Roby" Politi Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— North Elba Town Board members are considering a plan to build an anaerobic digester at the transfer station that would turn food scraps and other matter into fertilizer that could help them grow produce.

Tammy Morgan presented the anaerobic digester proposal to board members at their May 8 meeting. Instead of throwing away food scraps, cooking oil and yard waste, the town could recycle it and make some money.

“The food that we are talking about here is something that has both matter and energy that could provide economic input into our region instead of being just this thing that we’re constantly paying for,” Morgan said.

In an anaerobic digester, microorganisms break down biodegradeable material without oxygen. Food scraps and matter are put into a digester and come out as “digestate” that has a solid and liquid component.

“And both parts are useful as fertilizers,” Morgan said.

Methane gas is also generated.

On the flip side, composting is an aerobic process that uses oxygen.

The four goals of the project are:

•to divert 90,000 tons of organic material from landfills annually;

•to create green jobs in the rapidly growing field of bioenergy and bioproducts;

•to generate income by producing organic fertilizers and vegetables year-round;

•and to make the town of North Elba a model for other communities.

The food grown in the greenhouse — proposed to be built at the transfer station — would go on the market to sell. And the town could sell the fertilizer.

“This is definitely a marketable commodity in the region,” said Gail Brill of the Adirondack Green Circle, one of the project’s partners. Brill said the fertilizer would be welcome among local gardeners.

Morgan has the help of some local students and other partners: Lake Placid Central School, North Country School/Camp Treetops, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Clarkson University, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Wild Center and Adirondack North Country Association.

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