Magical ride for Disney's food scraps - New York News

Magical ride for Disney's food scraps

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LAKE BUENA VISTA (FOX 13) -

The avalanche is clay in color and indescribable in odor. And yet, Paul Sellew smiles warmly.

"That's beautiful material," he said.

Sellew is president of Harvest Power, which has undertaken an ingenious task of converting food waste into electricity.

"We borrowed heavily from nature," he said.

Up close, the slurry is an unpredictable mix of nibbled chicken bones, partially chewed apples, forgotten spaghetti, and whatnot.

The trucks are stuffed. A driver estimated his load at 10,000 pounds.

Harvest Power's Chris Peters says the parade of deliveries is constant and the daily haul is huge.

"It's around 50 to 60 tons every single a day," he said.

Some of the trucks are labeled Reedy Creek Improvement District. Peters deciphers that bureaucratic code: it's Disney.

"Our largest customer is Disney," he said. "Disney is all around us."

Plates are scraped inside the resort. And guests leftovers end up here -- about a mile from Fantasyland -- though they likely have no idea.

"We're part of the infrastructure," Sellew said. "Most people don't really know what's going on in the infrastructure."

Peters is eager to explain the process.

"This is really unique," he said.

The slop is first filtered for non-organic debris, such as forks or plates. From there it flows into tanks. And it sits.

Over the next three weeks, microbes degrade the silo of unfinished meals. As they chew on it, they create valuable methane gas.

Finally, the gas is piped to a pair of massive Caterpillar engines that generate a surprisingly large amount of electricity.

"At full capacity we'll produce enough energy that could power 16,000 homes every year," Peters said.

But that's not all.

Harvest Power says it dries the leftover pulp. The liquid is piped away as reclaimed water; the solid becomes fertilizer for farmers who grow food. It is a nearly-perfect closed loop of recycling.

"Over, and over, and over again," Peters said. "That's the goal."

Harvest Power said hotels around the Walt Disney World resort are adding to the mix. The company is confident more business will opt to send food waste here.

"It's a win-win," Sellew added. "This is the beginning, I think, of a big trend."

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