Vanguard Renewables in Agawam unwraps, grinds spoiled food, drink for energy, organic fertilizer –

Vanguard Renewables in Agawam unwraps, grinds spoiled food, drink for energy, organic fertilizer –

AGAWAM — Mega Thor has come to Agawam, and is hungry, consuming up to 250 tons a day of spoiled yogurt, out-of-date pie filling and leftover coconut flakes that otherwise would have been headed to a landfill or an incinerator.

When the newly installed beast is thirsty, it can drain eight kegs of stale beer at a time in a pumping process that takes 12 minutes.

The plant gets lots of beer now with COVID-19 having shut down bars and depressed keg consumption.

The Thor — it’s a name brand for the machinery — is at Vanguard Renewables organics recycling facility on Main Street which unpackages, crushes and turns into sully expired foods, out-of-spec batches and unsafe-to-eat food and beverage products. The packaging often gets recycled, said John Hanselman, chairman and CEO of Vanguard Renewables.

The food, once liquefied by mechanical hammers goes to one of six dairy farms – Deerfield, Hadley, Spencer, Rutland, Haverhill and Salisbury, Vermont — where Vanguard his installed anaerobic digesters.

The huge digesters are tanks that act as stomachs where microbes take the food slurry and the cow manure and turn it into gas for power generation and organic green fertilizer. Vanguard blends the food so the microbes get the right amount of sugar.

“Supporting New England’s dairy farmers is what we’re all about,” Hanselman said

The plant – which represents millions of dollars in investment – opened just six weeks ago and Vanguard is already talking about expanding it and adding a second shift. There are six employees now.

Hanselman and other executives got a chance Thursday to show off the facility to town and state officials.

Current customers include MGM Springfield and factories and distributors across New England and upstate New York. A state law passed in 2014 requires food processors and kitchens to recycle or compost food waste, Hanselman said. And the minimum size to fall under the law just went lower, meaning operations as small as a single grocery store now must comply.

“Everyone wants to comply with the law,” he said. “But they don’t wat to have to mess with their garbage. They just want to throw it away.

The plant holds up to 60,000 gallons of food slurry.

And there is a carbon air filter that changes all the air in the building six to 10 times an hour to control the smell.

Agawam Mayor William Sappelli said Vanguard’s proposal to the town was thorough and professional.

“They did everything right,” he said.

Hanselman said Agawam is a perfect location because its on Interstate 91 and that’s a good route to the farms where there are anerobic digesters.

Also there for the tour were Agawam’s statehouse delegation: state Sen. John Velis, D-Westfield, and state Rep. Nicholas A. Boldyga, R-Southwick.

Published at Mon, 07 Dec 2020 10:00:00 +0000

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