By Tony Lopez

DAVIS (CBS13) — UC Davis is using organic waste to power its campus in a first-of-its-kind program on a university campus.

It’s a smelly scoop of trash—food waste mostly—that instead of going to a landfill is being fed into a giant machine with a cool-sounding name: The Bio-Digester.

“A bio-digester uses microbes to convert organic waste, like food waste and animal waste, into biogas,” said UC Davis professor and inventor Ruihong Zhang.

Methane is then extracted from that biogas, which is used to supply power to the UC Davis campus electrical grid.

UC Davis is the first university in the nation to turn one man’s trash into a clean-energy treasure.

“For us to do it and demonstrate it on a campus of this size that has about 65,000 people coming here every day, it really shows a way of doing this on a very large scale,” said UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi.

How large? The bio-digester plant, which went online last month is designed to chew up 50 tons of campus waste each day. Food thrown out by students and faculty, and other organic material like yard waste will find its way here. Some nearby businesses and restaurants are chipping in with their waste, too.

All that mixing produces 12,000 kilowatt-hours of energy a day—or the equivalent of what an average U.S. household uses in a year.

The CEO of Sacramento-based Cleanworld calls the plant a game-changer. Her company built the facility using technology developed by Zhang.

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