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Biogas and Organic Waste Management

Anaerobic Digesters Podcast Mini-Series

Farm and Energy Initiative student researchers interviewed 21 experts and stakeholders in the field of biogas and organic waste management, and turned those interviews into a four-episode podcast miniseries exploring the use of anaerobic digesters.

The series also investigates the food system practices that surround anaerobic digestion, such as waste hauling, food packaging, organics diversion laws, renewable natural gas incentives, biofuels standards, digester permitting and regulation, and digester technical operation, as well as policies that promote sustainable use and production of biogas.

Topics
Episode 1: Recycling Organic Waste into Energy

Introducing anaerobic digestion and exploring the environmental goals supported by this technology.

In the first episode of this series, we introduce anaerobic digesters and explore why using this technology can support important environmental goals like greenhouse gas emissions reduction, water quality improvement, and renewable energy generation.

We talk to Chris Cox from the Montpelier, VT Water Resource Recovery Facility and Eric Fitch from Purpose Energy about why some organic wastes are harder to manage than others, and Nora Goldstein, editor of BioCycle Magazine, explains how digesters can improve water quality.

Josh Kelly from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources discusses the organics diversion laws that aim to redirect waste, including food scraps and other organics, away from landfills.

Featured Interviews

  • Chris Cox
  • Bill Crossman
  • Eric Fitch
  • Nora Goldstein
  • Josh Kelly

Hosted By

  • Lindsay De May
  • Austin Scarborough
  • Abby Bruzas
Episode 2: How do Anaerobic Digesters Work?

Explaining the technical operation of digesters and the uses for biogas.

In the second episode of this series, we discuss the nitty-gritty details about how digesters work and how we get from organic waste back to useful resources like heat, electricity, and transportation.

Bill Crossman from Vermont Technical College explains the digestion process and the different biogas potential of different feedstocks. Tom Murray from Vermont Gas Systems explains how they became the first gas utility in the country to offer renewable natural gas to customers. Josh Castenguay from Green Mountain Power discusses using the benefits that biogas bring to the electric grid.

Then, Tim Taylor from the Sacramento Clean Cities Coalition talks about California’s efforts to use anaerobic digestion to produce renewable natural gas used for transportation.

Featured Interviews

  • Dan Bell
  • Josh Castenguay
  • Chris Cox
  • Bill Crossman
  • Eric Fitch
  • Nora Goldstein
  • Tom Murray
  • Lisa Ransom
  • Tim Taylor

Hosted By

  • Lindsay De May
  • Austin Scarborough
  • Abby Bruzas
Episode 3: Digesters are Not a Perfect Tool

Explaining the environmental costs and drawbacks of digester use.

In the third episode of this series, we highlight many of the environmental and economic concerns about using digesters to manage organic waste.

First, our experts explain the technical and operational challenges of digester development and operation, including nuisance complaints.

Then we hear from Patty Lovera of Food and Water Watch, with concerns that digester operation is costly and risky, particularly for farmers, and can contribute to continued use of fossil fuel infrastructure and factory farming.

Dan Bell from Agri-Cycle discusses challenges in obtaining enough feedstocks to run a digester, and the special challenge of using packaged food. Bob Spencer from the Windham Solid Waste Management District in Vermont tells us why he was unable to develop a digester, even though he may have a perfect location.

Finally, our experts discuss the Federal Renewable Fuel Standard and other incentives for pipeline injection of biogas that make it less likely to be used locally.

Featured Interviews

  • Dan Bell
  • Chris Cox
  • Bill Crossman
  • Dennis Fekert
  • Eric Fitch
  • Nora Goldstein
  • Carolyn Grodinsky
  • Lauren Kahle
  • Josh Kelly
  • Patty Lovera
  • Tom Murray
  • Bob Spencer
  • Tim Taylor

Hosted By

  • Lindsay De May
  • Austin Scarborough
  • Abby Bruzas
Episode 4: Anaerobic Digestion Done Right

Showcasing three examples of sustainable digester operation in closed-loop systems.

In the fourth episode of this series, we look at three real-world examples of digesters done right.

First, Eric Fitch discusses his biogas development company, Purpose Energy, which focuses on digesters use in the food and beverage industry, including Magic Hat Brewery.

Then, Lauren Kahle tells us about the closed-loop system at Stahlbush Island Farm, in Corvallis, Oregon.

Finally, Tim Taylor discusses the Farm to Food to Fuel to Farm initiative in the city of Sacramento, CA.

Each of these successful models uses A.D. technology to address a local waste management need, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, meet a local energy demand, and make use of their digestate as a valuable resource. We also hear from several of our experts about policy improvements they would like to see in the biogas industry in the future.

Featured Interviews

  • Bill Crossman
  • Eric Fitch
  • Nora Goldstein
  • Carolyn Grodinsky
  • Lauren Kahle
  • Tom Murray
  • Tim Taylor

Hosted By

  • Lindsay De May
  • Austin Scarborough
  • Abby Bruzas
Contributors

Contributors

We have many people to thank for contributing their time and their expertise to this project.  Special thanks to those who took us on field trips, answered our questions, allowed us to interview them for this series, and introduced us to this cool technology.

Consultants and Guests

Contributing Farm and Energy Initiative Students

And thank you to the students who worked on this podcast for their help completing interviews, doing background research, and asking the questions that we explored in this series.

  • Austin Andersen
  • Abby Bruzas
  • Lindsay De May
  • Antonia Douglas
  • Anna Hazlett
  • Amanda Hustrulid
  • Emery Matthias
  • Austin Scarborough
Mini-Series Transcripts

Click below for the transcript of each episode in the mini-series.

Episode 1 Transcript

Episode 2 Transcript

Episode 3 Transcript

Episode 4 Transcript