Company that transforms discarded food into energy looking at Jacksonville

Massachusetts-based Divert Inc. is exploring potential sites for a plant.

Divert Inc. converts food waste into energy and is considering a facility in Jacksonville. It describes the project as an “integrated food waste recovery facility, processing wasted food from grocery stores and other sources by anaerobic digestion.”
Divert Inc. converts food waste into energy and is considering a facility in Jacksonville. It describes the project as an “integrated food waste recovery facility, processing wasted food from grocery stores and other sources by anaerobic digestion.”
Divert Inc.
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Divert Inc., a West Concord, Massachusetts-based technology company that converts food waste into energy, is exploring sites for a plant in North Jacksonville.

With a $1 billion commitment from a Canadian pipeline operator, Divert has announced it expects to add 30 sites by 2031, but has not disclosed the locations.

Divert applied to JEA to determine the service availability at three vacant North Jacksonville sites along Gun Club Road, Alta Drive and Alton Box Road.

JEA issued letters of availability in November and December.

The project description is an “integrated food waste recovery facility, processing wasted food from grocery stores and other sources by anaerobic digestion.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says anaerobic digestion is the natural process in which microorganisms break down organic materials, such as food scraps, grease and biosolids. 

The process produces biogas, a renewable energy source.  

A spokesperson for Divert Inc. said Jan. 3 that the company is in the early phase of determining its potential in Northeast Florida.

“Divert cannot comment on Jacksonville at this time,” said the spokesperson.

“Divert is still in the very early phases of planning for any projects in northern Florida, and can’t share anything more.”

The Gun Club Road site is the largest at 40.6 acres. A marketing brochure for the land shows that about 32 acres at northeast Gun Club Road and Busch Drive is for sale. 

The land is north of Zoo Parkway/Heckscher Drive.

The Alton Box Road site is 14.95 acres west of North Main Street.

The Alta Drive site is smaller at 5.75 acres.

A JEA availability request indicates that a company is exploring a project but does not mean a deal is in negotiation.

JEA says that many companies submit service availability requests for multiple properties as part of the site selection process. 

“Anyone can complete a service availability request for a property without notifying the property owner. However, JEA requires an agent’s authorization from the property owner for construction plan review submittals,” said JEA Director of Content and Media Relations Karen McAllister.

About Divert

Divert says it has 13 operational facilities, including anaerobic digestion facilities, serving customers in 25 states. The spokesperson said it is “a stage of rapid expansion, with 2 AD projects under construction in California and Washington and another 4 in development.”

Those four development sites were not disclosed.

Divert has said it works with nearly 5,400 retail stores to process wasted food. It acquires unsold food from retailers that include branches of Kroger, Albertsons, CVS and Target. 

The spokesperson said Divert has processed more than 2.3 billion pounds of food since it started in 2007.

Divert acquires unsold food from retailers that include branches of Kroger, Albertsons, CVS and Target.
Divert Inc.

As of March, Divert was converting food into renewable biogas at two anaerobic digestion facilities in Los Angeles and Freetown, Massachusetts. 

The company also had eight facilities where packaged food is prepared for third-party organics processing.

In 2008, it partnered with Hannaford Bros., a Maine-based supermarket chain that is part of Ahold Delhaize, to build and implement a first-of-its-kind modular system to convert wasted food into energy.

In 2021, Divert was acquired by Ara Partners, a Houston-based global private equity firm specializing in industrial decarbonization investments.

Expansion is fueled by the $1 billion commitment from Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge Inc. to expand Divert’s facilities across North America.

“It is the latest in a string of investments by major energy companies in biogas, which can replace traditional natural gas but is more costly to produce,” reported March 1, 2023.

Reuters reported that President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes subsidies for equipment to capture climate-warming emissions at places like landfills and dairy farms and convert them into gas used to heat homes or fuel vehicles.

Divert plans to sell its renewable natural gas into a voluntary market of companies seeking to fulfill renewable energy and climate goals, Reuters said.

Divert converts food into renewable biogas at its anaerobic digestion facility in Freetown, Massachusetts. Divert has a similar facility in Los Angeles.
Divert Inc.

In late 2022, Divert announced a $175 million deal to supply BP Plc with RNG from three U.S. facilities for 10 years.

The agreement will offset an estimated 36,905 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to Divert.

Reuters’ report said decomposing food produces about a tenth of the world’s climate-warming gases.

The Enbridge commitment will finance 30 sites it has selected for the digesters, but those locations have not been announced. 

The digesters would be developed by 2031.

Seeking to scale up

Divert also received an $80 million equity investment from Calgary-based Enbridge and $20 million from investors led by Ara Partners.

“It’s time to rapidly scale across the country and put our solutions that we’ve proven into place in 30 markets,” said CEO and co-founder Ryan Begin in the release.

That would put a facility within 100 miles of 80% of the U.S. population, Divert said.

“Divert is poised to offset nearly 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually at full capacity,” the company said.

Divert CEO and co-founder Ryan Begin.

Enbridge said that in the U.S. alone, “more than 100 million tons of wasted food are generated annually, with about 50% going to landfills or incinerators.”, a Food Journal Inc. website, reported in August 2023 that in a presentation, Begin talked about a store visit at which he observed a produce employee pulling iceberg lettuce. Every few heads, the employee would discard one. The produce clerk said he was told to “throw away anything brown.”

Divert says 85% of the wasted food it receives is produce.

Research into whether biogas plants generate odors finds that the EPA says biogas contains a small amount of hydrogen sulfide, which has a rotten-egg odor. 

“However, anaerobic digesters are completely enclosed and biogas is not released directly to the air. Digesters are commonly installed at farms to reduce odors,” the EPA says.

It says that what comes out of a digester after processing “is much less odorous” than the decomposing organic materials being put into it.

The agency says anaerobic digesters are designed to meet local and national codes for safety.

“However, they do produce methane and hydrogen sulfide. These gases both burn easily and are harmful to inhale, so it is essential to use proper gas-handling precautions.”

Job postings show Divert has facilities open or in development in Massachusetts, California, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas.

Divert has not posted job openings for Jacksonville.

A look at a new facility

While Divert has not commented on a Jacksonville facility, a description of another new plant might help describe one.

On Sept. 7, 2023, posted a news release that Divert broke ground in Longview in southwest Washington state.

It said the facility will enable Pacific Northwest businesses and local jurisdictions to reduce wasted food and comply with waste regulations.

The 66,000-square-foot facility “will provide companies with actionable data to take preventative steps to waste less and donate more food that is still edible.”

It says that “leveraging Divert’s proprietary depackaging process and anaerobic digestion, the facility will also transform waste from retailers and other companies into carbon-negative renewable energy, thereby preventing it from emitting harmful methane in landfills.”

When fully operational in 2024, the facility will be able to offset up to 23,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year at full processing capacity, equivalent to removing 5,000 gas-powered cars from the road annually, said the release.

The news release said Divert and Enbridge are expecting to invest nearly $100 million into the “Integrated Diversion & Energy Facility” project and the local economy.

“The facility will be able to accept wasted food from retail food customers, as well as agricultural food producers, industrial food manufacturers, local jurisdictions, restaurants, foodservice, institutional, or commercial waste generators,” the release said.

“I believe that Divert fits what Longview’s founder Robert A. Long envisioned 100 years ago by supporting economic growth and adding nearly 40 new jobs, and attracting innovative businesses that accelerate our carbon reduction and renewable energy goals,” said Longview Mayor MaryAlice Wallis.

The Jacksonville sites

The vacant industrial Gun Club site at 230 Gun Club Road is owned by three LLCs.

A site brochure shows a 32-acre site there for sale, saying that clearing is in progress. It is zoned Industrial Light and listed for $9.2 million.

The Duval County Property Appraiser shows the site is owned by Intermodal Equipment Services LLC, Gun Club Road Holdings LLC and Ark Property Investments LLC. 

The Alton Box Road site is owned by Peter J. Burkhalter and Howard E. Burkhalter Jr.

 The Alta Drive site is owned by The Signature Center LLC of Longboat Key. It is next to Port Jax Trade Center along Port Industrial Drive.



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