by Jena Brooker/BridgeDetroit

Co-founders of Scrap Soils (from left) Grace Tate, administrative manager; Ricky Blanding, executive director; Liana Li, chief operating officer. Credit: Courtesy photo

A Detroit company wants to know whether an autonomous robot can make composting food waste more environmentally friendly. 

Each week, Scrap Soils drives a truck around the city, picking up food waste from homes and businesses, and transports it to a local farm where it is turned into compost. 

Food is the most common item thrown into the trash where it decomposes and releases potent greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 8% of human-caused global emissions each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Composting eliminates the emissions and creates a nutrient-rich addition to soil. But for companies like Scrap Soils that are driving around to collect the compost, there’s a tradeoff from the greenhouse gasses produced by driving. 

The nonprofit composting service is confident that using a robot will be a good way to address the issue. 

“We believe that there’s less of a carbon footprint associated with using an autonomous vehicle,” said Ricky Blanding, executive director of Scrap Soils. 


The autonomous robot that Scrap Soils is using for a pilot program to transport food waste. Credit: Courtesy photo Credit: Courtesy photo

In June, the company began testing out the theory by using a small robot to gather food scraps from approximately 15 homes and transport them to the Corktown farm Brother Nature for composting. The robot comes from the Santa Monica-based startup Ottonomy.io. The robot can reduce carbon emissions for small-distance deliveries by nearly 40%, according to Ottonomy.io Co-founder Ritukar Vijay.

Meanwhile, Scrap Soils is collecting data on logistics, the market and benefits of the program. 

“It’s looking very promising that this way is something that would make more sense,” said Blanding, adding that he hopes the unique program will help grow the nonprofit’s small membership base.

#composting #foodwaste #environment #autonomousrobots #Detroit

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