Divert, a Concord-based company that turns food waste into renewable natural gas, is planning a nationwide expansion backed by $1 billion from Canadian energy company Enbridge.
The expansion will allow Divert to build 30 gas conversion plants with the capacity to handle more than 5 percent of all US food waste and offset almost 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. The plan is to be within 100 miles of 80 percent of the US population within eight years, Divert cofounder and chief executive Ryan Begin said.
“Today, we’re just under half a percent of the food waste in the US, so it’s 10 times from where we are today,” Begin said in an interview.
The company, which was originally named Feed Resource Recovery, has its roots in helping supermarkets like Stop & Shop deal with expired and damaged food products.
Divert’s system uses optical scanning to sort food and determine if it can be diverted to food banks or other uses. Using a process called anaerobic digestion, the remaining food waste is combined with bacteria to turn it into renewable natural gas, which can be used to produce electricity, heat homes, or power vehicles.
In addition to the $1 billion of backing for plant expansion, Divert also raised $80 million of equity funding from Enbridge and $20 million from existing investors including Ara Partners.
Divert already handles food waste from almost 5,400 retail stores and plans to add 1,000 more sites in 2023.
With the planned expansion, the company could expand its waste management to restaurants and eventually consumers, Begin said. “We are investigating and we’re going to start experimenting,” he said.
The likely business model would be for consumers to bring their food waste to a town or city disposal site or transfer station where Divert could pick it up. With an average household producing about 10 pounds of food waste per week, Begin does not think curbside pickup solely for that waste makes sense.
“We’re really sensitive to the carbon intensity,” he said. “So if somebody’s already driving to a local town transfer station to bring in their [other waste], we’re giving them another place to put that food waste. It’s probably one of the most important components that doesn’t get recycled today.”
Aaron Pressman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ampressman.