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Inspired by ‘Back to the Future,’ this machine turns food waste into energy

Many people in the Northwest separate out their table scraps, wilted leaves and old fruit, carting them off eventually to a compost bin or joining their grass clippings and pruning remains in the green waste bin. In the City of Seattle, food waste is required to be separated from garbage. But most of our actions still revolve around a simple concept: Collect your household waste, sit it on the curb, and somebody will come and pick it up. Businesses do the same thing, just on a larger scale.3-2 We have applied industrial-age logic to waste: create a production line that starts at a home or business, automates many of the tasks as possible, and coordinate through centrally managed processes and destinations. This centralized approach to waste collection is labor and energy intensive, and it doesn’t give back much. Along comes the HORSE, an acronym for High-solids Organic-waste Recycling System with Electrical Output — a machine that offers local waste reclamation as well as energy and high-grade fertilizer to its owners.3-3I heard about the HORSE from one my MBA students at Seattle’s Pinchot University. Srirup Kumar, President of Community Supported Biocycling, or CSB, recently launched a Kickstarter campaign with Jan Allen, president of Impact Bioenergy, to bring HORSE to market and make its case. Srirup and his team were clearly inspired by the modified flux capacitor at the end of the first Back to the Future movie that runs on trash. While time travel remains impossible, charging a Nissan Leaf from fermented kale can be achieved today.

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