Associate Professor Doug Daley (ERE) and graduate student Michael Amadori (MS, 2012) were featured in a segment of a locally-produced television program about diverting food waste from landfills and into progressive recycling programs to recover nutrients and energy. WCNY’s program Insight (http://www.wcny.org/insight/episodes/132-redefining-garbage/) focuses on topics of interest in central and upstate New York. Food waste (kitchen scraps, expired products, preparation materials) comprises nearly 1/3 of the residential waste stream in the United States. Some people use back yard composting piles, and some communities on the west coast use source separation to divert organic materials into centralized composting and mulching operations. At ESF, we continue to seek progressive solutions to managing food waste, including anaerobic digestion to produce methane and  innovative research such as Amadori’s use of food waste as a fish food.

The idea of feeding post-harvest food scraps to animals raised for human consumption is not new in agriculture, though the use of post-consumer food waste as animal food is relatively untried. There are a number of concerns with using  post-consumer waste, including bacterial and viral contamination, undesirable components (such as plastic, glass, utensils, bags, etc.) and variable waste quality (e.g., protein, liquid, carbohydrate content).

Image of post harvest food wast, from www.packworld.com

Image of post harvest food wast, from http://www.packworld.com

Amadori investigated the potential recovery and beneficial use of post-consumer food waste generated in one of the Syracuse University dining facilities. Amadori’s research assessed the use of dining hall food waste as a fish food in lieu of using commercial feed for farm-raised fish such as tilapia. Recovering the embodied energy and nutrients in food waste is consistent with federal policy on resource conservation and recovery, and is a focus of our graduate program in ecological engineering.

Amadori recovered buckets of food scraps from the dining hall. He then sorted, weighed, ground, pelletized and dried  the food scraps to produce small pellets to feed the fish in his experimental setup. Michael raised Nile tilapia from fingerlings for about 6 months, one of the longest running research projects of its kind. His research determined that tilapia fed the processed food scraps grew at a slightly slower rate than fish on commercial feed. While these initial results might discourage developing this approach at full-scale commercial production in the United States, it is encouraging that  the approach could be used in where operating costs are lower (e.g. warm climates, developing countries) and access to fresh fish is limited.

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