SOUTHINGTON – A food-to-energy plant on DePaolo Drive intends to add a 25,000 square foot building and machinery to sort an unexpected rise in packaged food waste.
Quantum Biopower converts the waste into methane, which is burned to produce electricity. A 2013 state law requires major food waste producers to send their waste to such facilities.
Last week, the Planning and Zoning Commission gave the company unanimous approval for the additional 25,000 square foot building to house the sorting machine.
The plant receives food waste, such as table scraps from restaurants and cafeterias, along with spoiled packaged food from grocery stores and other large businesses. George Andrews Jr., who represented Quantum Biopower before the PZC, said the company had expected about 70 percent of the food waste to be scraps and unpackaged food. Andrews, Loureiro Engineering vice president, said Quantum has instead received roughly that percentage of packaged foods, including pallets of soda cans that have gone bad.
“It’s created a bit of difficulty with regards to processing,” he said. “It takes a lot of time and the materials need to be segregated out by hand … A lot of hand labor goes into it.”
Quantum will purchase a more efficient sorting machine that separates organic material from packaging and removes recyclables such as aluminum.
No new employees will be needed for the expansion. Trips to the facility may decrease because it will be able to handle loads from larger vehicles.
“It’s just adding a new technology to the site,” Andrews said.
Commission members said they supported the company’s plan.
“They’ve been a very good company for the area. Very respectful for the neighbors,” said Susan Locks, a commission member.
Robert Hammersley, a commission member, said he’s toured the facility.
“I was quite impressed with the operation there,” he said. “I’m happy to see they’re making some improvements, enhancements.”
Turning Earth, a food waste plant slated for Spring Street, could open in mid-2019, according to the company’s website. It received town approval for the site in 2014 and state approval two years ago.