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Electricity Generation from Decomposing Food Essay

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Updated: May 28th, 2021

The article “Power Your Home with Kitchen Scraps? Scientists Figure out How to Generate Electricity from Decomposing Food” authored by J.D. Heyes discusses how households can use food waste to generate electricity and lower their power bills. The article is very informative and provides information that can have great economic benefits if applied on a large scale. The content of the article is very important because food waste is one of the major components of landfills in the United States. The article changed my perspective on electricity generation. The new discovery implies that scientists have not yet exhausted the possible means of generating electricity. After reading the article, I learned that food waste generated in kitchens, grocery stores, commercial establishments, and markets can be used to generate electricity through the application of biological fuel cells.

Article Summary

As mentioned earlier, the article that appeared on the website “Natural News” on March 31, 2016, discusses a new electricity-generation method developed by scientists from the United States of America. The scientists discovered that decomposing food can be used to generate electricity (Heyes, 2016). The majority of Americans use food scraps to feed their chickens and fertilize their gardens. However, this practice might come to an end if the new discovery is put into operation. The scientists’ research revealed that electricity can be generated by converting decomposing fruits and vegetables into energy (Heyes, 2016).

Moreover, food wastes from market stores can be used to create biological fuel cells. In their study, the scientists used spoiled and damaged tomatoes in biological and electrochemical cells to produce electricity. The process had another benefit in addition to generating electricity as it purified the waste contaminated with decomposing tomatoes (Heyes, 2016). It is interesting to learn that the discovery was almost accidental because the scientists were looking for a method to treat waste materials. In an effort to find an effective method to treat food waste, the researchers developed microbial gel batteries that produced current by utilizing tomato waste (Heyes, 2016). The electrochemical cells produce electricity by using bacteria to decompose and oxidize the organic components in food scraps. The process is possible because of lycopene, a chemical that is found in tomatoes.

Reflection

Several aspects of the article were very interesting because they provided new information that did not exist in an area that is critical to the global economy. First, the article discusses how decomposing food waste can be used to generate enough electricity that can power Disney World in Florida for a period of three months. This information surprised me because I did not know that food waste can be used to generate electricity. It is ironical that many homesteads have high power bills even though they produce large amounts of food waste every day (Miet, 2014). Second, a lot of food is wasted in the US, which could be used to generate energy. The amount of food waste generated in America is astounding. For example, the state of Florida alone generates about 396,000 tons of tomato waste that has adverse effects because it pollutes the environment (Heyes, 2016). When food waste is dumped into landfills, it generates methane gas, which is one of the major greenhouse emissions. On the other hand, the waste causes water treatment challenges when dumped into water bodies. The author states that if the discovery is applied to tomato waste in Florida, enough electricity would be generated to run Disney World for ninety days. This claim seems too ambitious to believe because it is based on assumptions that lack the backing of scientific evidence.

The content of the article raised many questions on my mind as I tried to think about the viability and sustainability of electricity generation from decomposing food. One of the questions that emerged was how efficacious the discovery is because the article does not talk about the cost of its application. From the content of the article, it is evident that the scientists have only made a discovery, and it is in its initial stages of development. It appears that it will take several years before homesteads can use their food waste to generate electricity and lower their power bills. The fear that biological and electrochemical cells might take time to become useful to homesteads and commercial establishments is augmented by the sentiments of the scientists who made the discovery. According to the scientists, the devices can produce small amounts of energy, and therefore, not effective for large-scale application. The amount of electricity that can be produced from the oxidation of 10 milligrams of food scraps is insignificant (Heyes, 2016). This means that several biological fuel cells would be required to power a high-voltage light bulb. I am afraid that the discovery is not well-developed to have any significant change. However, the scientists are convinced that they will be able to boost production through additional research.

The discovery of a new power-generation technique could have significant economic and environmental benefits if scientists refine it and enhance the output of the devices. The article states that earlier studies have shown that biofuels are more effective generators of electricity when compared to biomass. After reading this statement, I wondered how this discovery could benefit the environment because food waste is a major component of landfills. Does it have the potential to generate enough energy that could lower the United States’ overreliance on fossil fuels? In order to answer this question, I researched on the issue of food wastage in the United States. The findings of my research were astounding. For example, I found out that each American throws away about 400 pounds of food annually, which has severe economic and environmental effects (Barnard, 2016).

Another insight that I got from my research was the severity of food wastage in regard to its effect on the environment. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food waste is among the top three sources of carbon dioxide in the United States. The greenhouse gases released by decomposing food waste release carbon dioxide and methane that intensify the effects of climate change such as high temperatures (Chauhan et al., 2017). This information baffled me because very few Americans realize the adverse effects that the food they throw away has on the environment. This research made me conclude that the discovery of a method to convert decomposing food into electricity is a highly innovative and revolutionary concept. I came to the conclusion that there is enough food waste in the United States to generate significant amounts of electricity that can power several sectors of the economy (Michaelides, 2012). The content of the article is not convincing enough to believe that that the scientists have the innovation all figured out. However, it is too early to dismiss it as unfeasible because it is in its development stage.

I agreed with most of the article’s content because the additional research that I conducted supported most of the author’s arguments and claims. However, some of the information that the author provides is not supported by the scientists’ findings. I questioned the validity of some of the claims made by the author. For instance, the author states that leftover food from grocery stores and markets as well as homesteads can be used to generate green energy. However, the findings of the scientists were based on the use of tomatoes only. According to the researchers, tomatoes are an excellent component for power generation because they contain a pigment known as lycopene.

I questioned myself as to whether other food wastes contain similar pigments that facilitate the generation of energy from food waste. The author provides an explanation that tries to eliminate any doubts that readers might have. He argues that microbial electrochemical cells use bacteria to oxidize organic materials in order to release electrons that are captured in biological fuel cells. This implies that all that is needed is decomposing food waste and the presence of bacteria. The scientists discovered that biotechnological applications perform better when using chemicals to generate electricity when compared to decomposing fruits. However, electrical performance between the two components did not show any significant differences.

Biological fuel cells will contribute significantly to the mitigation of electricity and environmental challenges in the world. However, scientists will have to increase the power output of biological fuel cells. The power-generation capacity of the device is low, but the scientists believe that innovative improvements will boost it considerably. The discovery supports earlier reports, which revealed that biofuels are more efficient than biomass in the generation of electricity. Scientists are continuing their research in order to ensure that the output power of the device is sufficient to generate electricity that can be used in homesteads and commercial establishments. One of the major challenges in the United States is addressing the adverse effects of fossil fuels in environmental pollution (Wang, 2016). International organizations that are concerned with environmental conservation have called on governments to promote the development of renewable and alternative energy sources.

In that regard, the discovery of a method to transform decomposing food into electricity has two main benefits: it will generate energy and it will help in mitigating global warming. According to the article, the state of Florida produces about 396,000 of tomato waste that can be converted into energy (Heyes, 2016). The state does not have an effective treatment process to deal with waste materials. If scientists improve the output of biological fuel cells, the waste can be harnessed and converted into electricity. The author of the article also captures the adverse effects of food waste. When food waste is dumped in landfills, it decomposes and releases methane, which is a greenhouse gas that pollutes the environment and increases global warming (Heyes, 2016). The waste creates water treatment challenges when it is dumped into water sources. Scientists should work more on the discovery in order to find ways of applying it on a large scale. Currently, it is a concept that has insignificant application benefits. Moreover, the federal and state governments should take an interest in the discovery and fund institutions that conduct research on the use of biofuels in electricity generation.

Conclusion

The article was informative because it explores a new discovery on the field of electricity generation. This discovery is very useful because many countries are looking for ways to generate green energy in order to lower the use of fossil fuels that are major sources of greenhouse gases. The author talks about the discovery of a method to generate electricity from food waste. Scientists in the United States discovered how tomato waste can be used in the production of electricity. Though the article was informative, it did not provide sufficient information to demonstrate the feasibility of the new discovery. After reading the article, I was left with many questions because the content was simplistic in nature.

The author does not discuss the challenges of generating electricity from decomposing waste. He only discusses its potential. I concluded that the article was simplistic in nature because the discovery is new, and therefore, related studies on the topic do not exist. I also concluded that the discovery has great potential for electricity generation because the amount of food waste thrown away in the United States annually is large. It is a relief to proponents of environmental conservation because if fully adopted, biological cells will play a key role in lowering the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. I would highly recommend the article to anyone interested in learning more about how decomposing food can be converted into electricity. Many Americans are unaware that they can use the food they throw away to generate energy and power their homes.

References

Barnard, A. V. (2016). Freegans: Diving into the wealth of food waste in America. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Chauhan, A., Ghosh, C., Gulati, K., Gupta, C., Gupta, C., Jindal, T., …and Singh, K. (2017). Paradigms in pollution prevention. New York, NY: Springer.

Heyes, J. D. (2016). “Power your home with kitchen scraps? Scientists figure out how to generate electricity from decomposing food.” Natural News. Web.

Michaelides, E. E. (2012). Alternative energy sources. New York, NY: Springer Science & Business Media.

Miet, P. C. H. (2014). Energy from waste & biomass fuels. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.

Wang, A. (2016). How can we reduce fossil fuel pollution? New York, NY: Lerner Publications.

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