SOUTHINGTON — Packaged hot dogs, lettuce and other food scraps sat near a mixing pit at Quantum Biopower’s energy plant on Depaolo Drive, waiting to be mashed up and turned into electricity-generating power.
The company’s leaders say they’re turning waste that would have ended up at the curbside into mulch and methane. U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy toured the plant on Wednesday and heard from company and town officials about encouraging similar facilities.
Quantum has yet to generate enough biogas to begin using its 1.2-megawatt engine, but the company expects to do so in about a month.
Brian Paganini, Quantum’s managing director, said food waste is a large part of the garbage stream, but little is being recycled. Rather than throw it into an incinerator with other trash, it can be allowed to compost, a process that is sped up at Quantum’s plant, which produces both burnable gas and mulch for agriculture.
Town officials, including Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio, Town Manager Garry Brumback and Economic Development Coordinator Louis Perillo were on the Wednesday tour with Murphy.
Paganini and Riccio said the facility produces nutrient-rich water as a byproduct but the company isn’t allowed to sell it as fertilizer.
“We need help to get that passed,” Riccio told Murphy.
The federal government extended investment tax credits for wind and solar energy projects but hasn’t done so for biogas technology, Paganini said. Those tax credits would make food waste facilities easier to start and would also level the playing field with other new energy sources.
“We have to get out of the game of picking winners and losers,” he said.
With the facility open, companies within 20 miles that generate more than two tons of food waste a year are required to recycle organic material. Quantum has already been contacted by Yale University, the Aqua Turf Club and Whole Foods, according to Paganini.
The 2013 law that set those requirements for food waste producers has spurred proposals by other such companies, including Turning Earth, a Pennsylvania-based company that hopes to begin construction soon at 111 Spring St. Southington’s central location puts major food waste producers near Hartford and New Haven within the 20-mile radius.
Even without the legislative mandate, Paganini said his plant’s tipping fees are less than a conventional facility.
Murphy said Quantum’s work is better for the environment and has created jobs.
“Why wouldn’t you want more of this,” he said.
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