A news release for the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence:

First-of-its-kind pilot size study to turn organic waste and
biobased plastics into a clean energy resource

MADISON, WI – In an effort to turn an organic waste stream and biobased plastics into an energy resource, the Office of Energy Independence, University of Wisconsin – Platteville (UW-Platteville), and UL – EnvironmentSM (UL-E) an Underwriters Laboratories Company, have joined forces to conduct the first pilot study in the nation to test anaerobic digestion of bioplastics as a co-feedstock.

“When perishable foods, such as meat or dairy items, reach the end of their shelf-life, the store must remove the product for proper disposal to a landfill,” said Judy Ziewacz, Director for the Office of Energy Independence. “If successful, the food packaging and plastic industry would be able to turn a waste expense into a profitable energy generator.”

Annually, more than 830,000 tons of organic waste is sent to Wisconsin landfills. If this waste was diverted to a digester, it could potentially generate 5 megawatts of renewable energy to power 5,000 homes.

UW–Platteville, with scientific partner UL-E, will use an existing 4-stage digester built by Hanusa Renewable Energy to run the pilot study.

“The pilot scale digester is the only one of its kind in the nation that we are aware of,” said Tim Zauche, Chemistry and Engineering Physics Chair at UW-Platteville. “If we can determine bioplastic can be processed through the system, then the question becomes will it contribute to renewable gas production and a quicker return on investment.”

“Business owners are seeking innovation to lower their environmental footprint,” said Joe Mecca, Business Development Manage for UL-E. “This has great potential to reduce waste-to-landfill while producing renewable energy. We look forward to working with UW-Platteville to test the feasibility of this concept and setting guidelines for the marketplace.”

The study will be conducted at Pioneer Farm, located about 5 miles southeast of the city of Platteville. Pioneer Farm is a key component of the Wisconsin Agricultural Stewardship Initiative, a statewide
collaboration between producers, state government and the University of Wisconsin System to evaluate best management practices in Wisconsin and form policies based on practices that will enhance the environment and produce a profit for business.

For more information, visit the Office of Energy Independence www.energyindependence.wi.gov, UW–Platteville www.uwp.edu or UL-E www.ul.com.