Dream machine eats trash, creates clean fuel
A consumer-friendly biogas device is helping feed the world in an eco-friendly way.
We take microwaves and conventional ovens for granted. But in the developing world, from Nepal to South America, people rely on burning wood in an indoor fire pit or stove to cook their food.
Smoke from the fumes can cause lung disease, and trees are being cut down for fuel at an alarming rate. But Israeli social entrepreneurs have cooked up a new solution that creates eco-friendly cooking fuel, while removing the problem of deforestation and insects caused by manure and compost.
The HomeBioGas company has developed a consumer biogas machine, which munches on biological waste and operates on zero electricity. The machine is about the size of two dishwashers, and comes packed like a box from IKEA.
Compost scraps from meat and vegetables are fed into a chute. With the help of outdoor heat and sunlight, the waste turns into biogas – which can be used for cooking or lighting. Depending on local laws, the gas can be piped into a home, or be lit as a cooking flame right from the HomeBioGas system. Liquid fertilizer for use in the garden or hydroponic farm is an additional byproduct.
A staff of 12 people in Israel at the HomeBioGas office are using it every day to cook their meals, says a representative from the company.
With a retail cost of $2,400, HomeBioGas is about to ship internationally this August. Below is a video of an early prototype of the device, called TevaGas, in action:
There are an estimated 2.7 billion people living in off-grid conditions, most without access to clean-burning cooking fuel. Off-grid means they are not connected to electricity or running water.
Besides the obvious benefit of helping people in developing nations, there is a surprising new market opening up in the United States too, with millions of people here who can benefit from such appliances, says T.H. Culhane, founder of Solar Cities.
Culhane, an academic at Mercy College in New York City, travels the world to educate people about biogas. When he spoke with From The Grapevine, he was in Ireland.
It was one of Culhane’s workshops in Cairo that inspired the Israeli inventor Yair Teller to start a commercial biogas product. Culhane continues to advise HomeBioGas informally as the company develops its product.
“This is a technology we have had for thousands of years,” Culhane says. “There are a lot of myths about it. It’s actually a very easy thing for people to do.” What he’s doing as an educator, and HomeBioGas as a company, is breaking these myths so biogas can be accessible to the masses.
HomeBioGas will rely on subsidies and grants to help alleviate the cost of the product in developing countries. It’s already being piloted in the Dominican Republic, Israel and Jordan.
The World Health Organization says that 4.3 million children and women die every year from indoor pollution in the developing world. The new HomeBioGas appliance can have immediate impact on improving those lives.
MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE: