Northgate Markets, Emerson partner on food waste-to-energy

By Emerson | November 18, 2016

Whether they’re craving cilantro-speckled guacamole or tangy ceviche that still tastes of the ocean, Northgate Markets is a destination for shoppers who want a foodie experience with every trip to the market. The bountiful options offer shoppers a bigger selection of fresh, healthy food—but create a dilemma for supermarkets like Northgate itself: What to do with the food scraps?

Food scraps are a natural and unavoidable result of freshly preparing food on-site, a trend that is rising among grocery stores. For Northgate Markets, these scraps add up quickly: Just one store in the southern California chain uses six cases of avocados each day to prepare guacamole and other fresh items. That’s nearly 300 avocado pits and skins that require disposal—somewhere other than a landfill, according to California legislation that went into effect in April.

Emerson offered an easy solution that didn’t take everything but the kitchen sink to discover. Northgate Markets is introducing Grind2Energy, Emerson’s system to turn food waste into energy, to help address food waste across its stores. The markets are the first in California to use the innovative system.

“Before Grind2Energy, we were spending hours each day composting our food scraps,” said Keith McCarron, director of distribution for Northgate Markets. “Grind2Energy has given us a way to dispose of this waste in a clean, orderly way without spending a lot of time or taking up valuable space, like composting does. And even better, we’re able to turn food scraps into energy and into a positive for both Northgate and the environment.”

Through Grind2Energy’s unique process, food waste is ground at Northgate Markets using a specially engineered, industrial-strength InSinkErator grinder. The food waste is converted into a slurry, which is safely stored in sealed tanks before being transported to the Joint Water Pollution Control Plant, a Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County facility and one of the largest wastewater treatment plants in the world.

From there, this material is put into an anaerobic digester where bacteria and other microbes snack on the decomposing food in enclosed tanks. As the waste breaks down, the microbes release methane—which is then captured and used to generate energy. Click here to see Grind2Energy in action across Northgate Markets.

In addition to the environmental benefit, Grind2Energy helps chains like Northgate Markets meet guidelines set forth by the Mandatory Commercial Organics Bill. The legislation requires high-volume commercial operations, such as supermarkets, to divert food waste from landfills.

“The Grind2Energy technology offers businesses a clean and efficient method to comply with this legislation,” said Chad Severson, president of InSinkErator, a business of Emerson. “Grind2Energy also provides businesses with an opportunity to participate in a local, closed-loop solution that drives renewable energy benefits for their own communities.”

Northgate Market’s results have already been significant. Renewable energy, created from the chain’s food scraps, has been enough to power 53 homes and heat 78 homes for a month. The food scraps have generated 20,394 pounds of nutrient-rich fertilizer. They’ve also made a big impact on greenhouse gas emissions, eliminating the equivalent of driving 234,385 miles.