EPA Awards Grant to MU Researchers for Reduction of Food Loss and Waste

October 09, 2020

Portrait of Zhiqiang Hu

Professor Zhiqiang Hu

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded a grant to Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Zhiqiang Hu in support of the reduction of food loss and waste using anaerobic digestion (AD).

“Anaerobic digestion is when microbes break down organic materials, like food and organic waste, to carbon dioxide and methane without using oxygen,” Hu said. “If we can increase AD usage, we will have better food and waste management.”

As these microbes break down organic materials, they produce useful byproducts. These byproducts can potentially be captured for energy production or a better fertilizer for agriculture.

The project co-primary investigator, Professor Teng Lim from MU Extension, will work with Hu to help build partnerships to increase the use of AD in Missouri. These partnerships will include farmers, schools and AD companies to provide technical assistance and outreach training.

“We will be working with AD companies and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to provide training for communities. This training will optimize systems and settings for optimal anaerobic digestion to reduce waste that goes to landfills,” Hu said.

This grant’s funding is part of the  Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative. The initiative is a partnership between the EPA, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

Using AD is preferable to placing food waste in landfills or incinerating it, according to the EPA. Environmental impacts are lessened, and the waste is transformed into potential fuels, helping sustainability efforts.

Hu’s grant is the only one awarded in the EPA’s Region 7. This region covers Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and nine Tribal Nations. The two-year grant is one of 12 grants awarded throughout the United States totaling $3 million.