Final Report: "Greenbox" - A Novel Community-Based Food Waste-to-Energy Collection System

EPA Grant Number: SU835999
Title: "Greenbox" - A Novel Community-Based Food Waste-to-Energy Collection System
Investigators: Franchetti, Matthew
Institution: University of Toledo
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016
Project Amount: $14,999
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Energy


The United States generates more than 34 million tons of food waste each year and over 97% of it is disposed of at U.S. landfills. The goal of this project was to develop a novel food waste collection kiosk called "Greenbox" that will collect and store food waste from households and restaurants with incentives for user participation to spur food waste to energy production in the local community. Major barriers to food waste to energy production in the United States are related to the high cost of food waste collection coupled with low landfill costs. Greenbox will overcome these obstacles by consolidating food waste for delivery to local large energy firms while providing incentives to users in the form of rewards. Greenbox will offer a low-cost collection option to divert food waste from landfills, reduce greenhouse gases from decomposition, and aid in generating cleaner energy. From an education standpoint, Greenbox will share and inspire users to divert waste with each use from its user interface and the student team will create a webinar for social media to highlight Greenbox.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

The Greenbox team successfully designed a functional, user friendly Greenbox prototype. In terms of output measures from the development and implementation of a single Greenbox unit, the project team estimates the following outputs/outcomes per Greenbox unit:

● The diversion of 76 tons of food waste from U.S. landfills per year;
● The mitigation of 27.8 million ft3 of methane gas by removing the food waste from landfills;
● Roughly 40,000 kWh of energy per year reducing the reliance on more harmful energy sources such as coal and oil;
● A pathway to cleaner, healthier communities with a reduction in unwanted food waste, contributions to climate change mitigation, and the generation of green energy;
● The development of a competitive business model that will require a $3,858 initial investment per unit and provide a 2.54 year payback period and 33.9% rate of return;
● The food waste is collected internally and a collection service is notified when the box is ⅔ full to enable a proper lead time to actual collection of the bin; and
● The projected annual profit is $1,600 after an estimated $700 annual cost, including maintenance and collection fee.

The incentive program for which the users of Greenbox receive rewards per pound of food waste donated are:

● Every 200 lbs. of food waste donated, the user will receive the equivalence of $5 from the respective location or sponsor of the Greenbox.

● Incentives include coupons to the particular grocery store the Greenbox is located at or coupons to the sponsored company.


The student team successful created a working prototype of Greenbox and created a viable business model that requires an initial investment of under $4,000, which provides a payback period under 3 years and a rate of return of over 30% over a 7-year time period while demonstrating a high level of environmental protection in terms of waste diversion from landfills, greenhouse gas reduction, and the use of an alternative energy source.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 1 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Waste to energy, food waste, anaerobic digestion, waste collection systems