Podcast’s Essential Bites:
[2:24] “We have such a large food manufacturing center here in Iowa. And a lot of that food waste from the manufacturing industry was going to landfill or it was leaving the state or was being incinerated […]. When I first saw, as the pretreatment director of our wastewater plant, that a lot of this stuff is going out, we said, how do we bring it back here to our facility and make more biogas out of it? Because Muscatine, being a city of only about 25,000 people, we have one big organic industry, just weren't really producing enough gas for anybody to take interest in a biogas project here. […] How do we create more biogas so that somebody will actually take notice of us and have an interest in doing a biogas partnership with us.”
[3:41] “I very quickly found out that solid waste was the bigger portion of that in the region, not just for Muscatine, but actually, from almost a 100-150 mile radius around Muscatine, where all these food manufacturers were. They were sending that material and [needed] somebody regionally to be able to take that, depackage it and put the food waste to beneficial reuse […]. So I asked around, nobody had any interest in doing this. And so we decided, let's just take a leap.”
[15:42] “$40 a tonne seemed to be a pretty stable industry standard […] and that's kind of where we came down as well to where we could make a little money on the end of where we're beyond our costs. […] And it made sense for us to say that it was something that they were willing to pay. And in Muscatine, it costs $65 a tonne to put [the waste] to landfill. […] I said, this project always has to make at least a little bit of revenue on just the solid receiving side, because you can't count on the biogas side. These things come and go.”
[18:27] “We pump our biosolids two miles to the storage lagoons. And then in the fall, we land apply by drag line and injection in the ground. So it's a very clean, very inexpensive operation for us to do. The farmers love it because of course, they're getting actually free fertilizer and we don't charge them for that at all, because it's such an easy thing for us to do and […] we just like to be able to get rid of it […].
[19:54] “For contamination, I'm not so much worried about any chemical or anything like that, but […] plastics is the biggest thing for us […]. So, we are looking at options and there are some some really exciting things on the horizon about how we're going to be able to actually secondarily process the stuff that comes out of the machine, before it goes out to the farm field. So that's either going to be here at the plant where we can run our biosolids through some kind of a screening process before it goes out. Or we can process the food waste material itself. […] We figured the first year is not gonna be that big a deal, but over the years, the farmers are gonna start to notice these little chips of plastic in their field and are not gonna be too happy with us.”
[21:30] “Pushing the envelope of sustainability is really what […] spurred me on a lot. I think our utilities are highly underutilized as far as I see. There's lots of things that […] we're just not letting happen, because it just takes a little extra effort. And we have to, we have to think outside of that [and about] the utility of the future.”