Cow Manure Built Your BMW?
BMW AG’s car-assembly plant in South Africa is getting up to 30% of its power from two unique but pervasive forms of renewable energy: cow manure and discarded food. In other words, waste.
The company has agreed to a 10-year deal to buy as much as 4.4 megawatts of electricity from Bio2Watt, a biogas plant about 50 miles from the new BMW factory. Surrounded by land where about 30,000 cattle graze, Bio2Watt runs off gas emitted by a blend of feces and organic waste ranging from sour yogurt to discarded dog food.
It’s a great way to recycle cow manure, given that animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to that, methane – which comes from cow manure – is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2 on a 20 year time frame.
Food waste is another major issue. According to a recent report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute, about one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around $1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. Every year, consumers in industrialized countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (222 million vs. 230 million tons).
The fact that BMW is doing its part to help solve these problems is fantastic.
For local food and waste companies, supplying Bio2Watt is a convenient and environmentally friendly way to get rid of organic waste that the government is seeking to divert from landfills. The plant also receives waste from several large food companies, according to Bio2Watt Chief Executive Officer Sean Thomas.
“You are looking at around 500 tons of waste coming onto the site every day being processed at the plant,” said Thomas. “A lot of the consultants, the waste companies, are knocking on the door.”
The deal with Bio2Watt was struck to bring the automaker a step closer to its renewable target. The BMW Group has set voluntary, long term environmental global targets in the areas of production, products and value-added chain. These targets include reducing resource consumption (water, energy, waste, solvents) per vehicle produced by 45% and reducing CO2-Emissions by 50% by 2020.
It looks like they’re well on their way.
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