According to a recent report by Second Harvest, nearly 60% of food produced in Canada – amounting to 35.5 million metric tonnes – is lost and wasted annually. In addition to industry inefficiencies and cultural norms that perpetuate unnecessary hunger, food waste also has an environmental impact: when food waste rots in landfills, it creates methane gas, which is up to 25 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. In Canada, this equates to 56.6 Million tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions.
The U.S.-based Environmental Protection Agency has created the “The Food Recovery Hierarchy” which helps to visualize how to prevent and divert food waste. Organizations like Second Harvest, which participate in food rescue, recover food for people, whereas organizations like ZooShare use inedible food waste to compost and create renewable energy from biogas.
Biogas is the gas created from the breakdown of organic waste. Biogas can be used as a cooking fuel, to power vehicles, and, in the case of ZooShare, to produce electricity.
A biogas plant (also known as a biodigester) provides an oxygen-free environment for a process known as “anaerobic digestion”. The biogas plant works like a big concrete stomach, mixing organic waste on a continual basis. Meanwhile, bacteria inside the biogas plant digest the waste, releasing methane (as well as other gases). Instead of letting these greenhouse gases escape into the atmosphere (where they contribute to global warming) the biogas plant captures the gas and stores it until it can be used to generate renewable power. An additional benefit of the biogas production process is a by-product of nutrients & microbes which can be added to soil.
ZooShare completed construction of Canada’s 1st zoo-based biogas plant in December 2020 and has been generating and exporting power since April 2021. We recycle 2,000 tonnes of manure from the Toronto Zoo and 15,000 tonnes of inedible local food waste to create renewable energy for over 250 Ontario homes each year. This process results in an annual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 20,000 tonnes of CO2, and allows us to return valuable nutrients to the soil in the form of a high-quality fertilizer. ZooShare is located across the street from the Toronto Zoo (click here to see our project site in Google Maps). To learn more about biogas and its benefits for the environment, click here.
The ZooShare mission is to be a catalyst, through education and investment, in the growth of community-owned biogas plants. To learn about our educational initiatives, click here.
Our project is funded by people like you: Our renewable energy co-operative is made up of 800+ members who have invested over $7 million into the biogas project.