WSU was selected to receive $129,727 in grant funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help develop multi-partner anaerobic digester projects in the Northwest.

The University is among 12 recipients nationally selected to receive the federal funding, which will help reduce food loss and waste and divert food waste from landfills by expanding anaerobic digester capacity throughout the United States. EPA anticipates that it will make these awards once all legal and administrative requirements are satisfied.

“Finding solutions to better curb food waste continues to be a top priority for this administration,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This year’s round of innovative community projects is focusing on ways to reduce food waste at the local and state levels and divert it from landfills.”

EPA Regional Administrator Chris Hladic added, “With half of our food waste still going into landfills, we are missing out on opportunities to use this hidden resource. When wasted food is instead recovered and used in anaerobic digestion and other processes for renewable fuel, fertilizer and other sustainable products, we gain benefits for Washington’s economy, environment and communities.”

WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, will use the EPA grant to leverage research and data derived from WSU’s partnerships with other state institutions, including Washington State Departments of Commerce and Ecology, to identify three optimal areas in Washington for developing successful, multi-partner digester projects.

The University will then take advantage of the team’s expertise in research and extension relating to anaerobic digestion to interview potential anaerobic digestion partners, with the goal of exploring their interest in anaerobic digestion projects, the potential benefits and constraints that would affect their participation, and their particular industry’s risks and risk thresholds. The team will produce tailored research briefs to address concerns specific to each group of stakeholders and bring the most appropriate and willing stakeholders together in project charrettes to lay out tangible groundwork for viable anaerobic digester projects.

“We know that digester projects can provide many benefits, but it takes careful planning to ensure they have the best chance of success,” said Georgine Yorgey, project lead and associate director with the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with partners across the state towards recovering energy from organic wastes.”

Anaerobic digestion is a process where microorganisms break down organic materials, such as food scraps, manure and sewage sludge, all in the absence of oxygen. Anaerobic digestion produces biogas, which can be captured and used for energy production, and “digestate,” a nutrient-rich product, such as a fertilizer. Anaerobic digestion is a strategy included in EPA’s food recovery hierarchy that is preferable to landfilling/incineration because it reclaims valuable resources. This anaerobic digestion grant is a part of EPA’s efforts and contributions to the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative, a partnership among EPA, the Department of Agriculture, and Food and Drug Administration, to reduce food loss and waste through individual and combined federal action.

In 2019, EPA awarded a total of more than $110,000 in targeted cooperative agreements, to Madison, Wisconsin, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and WSU’s Energy Program for expanding anaerobic digester capacity. Plans from these recipients include holding workshops promoting anaerobic digestion projects, providing subawards, and assistance opportunities for anaerobic digestion projects focusing on the food and beverage business sector. WSU’s Energy Program received $27,500 in anaerobic digestion grant funding to host workshops on Renewable Natural Gas Outreach and Education in the Pacific Northwest.