WESTFIELD, NJ — Chicken fat, discarded banana peels, moldy cheese and other food items that previously would have been tossed in the garbage may now be more easily recycled.

Beginning Friday, residents will be able to drop off food waste at the Westfield Conservation Center and be assured that waste will be benefit the environment and, possibly, a reduction in the town’s sewerage costs, officials said.

“When I look in my garbage can, so much of it is just food waste. So much of it is just wasted energy. It just goes to the incinerators,” Catherine Choudhry, a member of the Westfield Green Team, told the Town Council Tuesday. “So what is exciting about recycling our food waste is that we’ll be capturing that energy.”

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Choudhry said that would happen when town establishes a food waste drop off at the Westfield Conservation Center. She noted that the waste is to be converted into energy — something that may lead to a reduction in the town’s costs to fund the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority.

Councilman David Contract, the liaison to the Green Team, said there would be no cost to residents for dropping off food waste at the Westfield Conservation Center and that unlike with other composting programs, residents can drop off waste in plastic bags.

“This new food waste tote or collection bin will be placed right next to the sheds there will be a sign so that you know where it is,” Contract said. “It’s a self-sealing bin so the food waste will not attract the animals.”

Contract said Westfield is in the first municipality in Union County to feed into the program. Residents can drop off food waste any time the conservation center is open, he said.

Arielle Bernard, a sales support manager for Waste Management’s centralized organics recycling facility in Elizabeth, said a new process that the company launched this month allows for the facility to create a bio-slurry out of the food waste that has some contamination in it.

“It’s a little bit different from composting in that we can accept a wide range of pre and post consumer food waste,” Bernard said. “That allows us to handle a little bit more of contamination.” That can include plastic bags which people might use to transport their food waste, she said.

The collected food waste is poured into a “bio-separator,” which filters organic and inorganic waste, then liquefies the food waste to produce a fluidized “feedstock,” according to Waste Management.

The resulting bio slurry is then added to anaerobic digesters to increase biogas production, which is then collected and used in a cogeneration plant for the production of heat and electricity.

Food waste will be picked up Fridays, officials said. The collector at the conservation center will accommodate up to 96 gallons of waste, Contract said afterward.

“It’s called completing the carbon cycle,” Contract said. “Carbon created the food. Now, we’re going to turn it back into a carbon rich source, which is biofuel to be burned.”

Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh

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