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SOUTH DENNIS, Mass. -- Community-based independent Ring Bros. marketplace will be testing a new bioenergy technology in its Cape Cod store that will not only save the retailer money by turning organic waste into energy, but might also drive revenue by through the sale of surplus power to neighboring businesses, and of nutrient-rich compost.
The retailer last week received a $195,000 grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s Renewable Energy Trust, a group that pioneers and promotes clean energy technology, to install a system that uses anaerobic digestive technology to break down organic waste. The process renders methane gas as a byproduct, which will power a turbine that generates electricity.
“This will enable us to eliminate our energy costs,” Patrick Ring, grocery manager and son of owner Ed Ring, told Progressive Grocer in an exclusive interview. “Also, we expect to generate enough surplus energy to sell to the other businesses that share the shopping plaza with us.”
The experimental unit was developed by Feed Resource Recovery, Wellesley, Mass., which specializes in technology to recycle organic waste. Shane Eten, who founded Feed Resource Recovery, is a long-time friend of Ring’s. Once Eten developed the technology, he saw the supermarket as an ideal place to test it.
“He thought our place was perfect because of the volume of fresh foods we have,” said Ring.
The unit, which will be installed next spring, handles the entire recycling process in the store. Organic waste is deposited in the unit, and the anaerobic digestive technology is added, which breaks down the waste and releases methane gas, which is then used to power a turbine that generates electricity. The resulting by-product will be ready to be sold to organic farmers as fertilizer.
The process that will be used by Ring Bros. takes typical grocery organic waste recycling efforts a major step further. Supermarkets running organic waste recycling programs usually collect the matter in a compactor and then pay to have it trucked off the site to another recycling facility. But with Ring’s new program, “it doesn’t have to be trucked off-site,” said Ring. “It all happens in the store, so there is less total fuel consumed in the process.”
The retailer will still have to use traditional means to get rid of have approximately 35 percent to 40 percent of its waste, but employing the new system should save the grocer a large chunk of the $25,000 to $30,000 per year it spends on waste management.
What’s more, Ring can sell any excess energy the unit generates to the other businesses that operate in his store’s shopping plaza; these include a Dunkin Donuts, Curves, a barber shop, travel agency, and insurance agency. The only challenge for Ring’s there might be to figure out which product category to place retail electricity under.
-- Joseph Tarnowski