In this case, the HORSE is a 'living' machine, not an animal, and has the potential to reinvent the food cycle.
We have a huge food waste problem, not only in the US, but all over the globe, and while the issue really needs to be addressed on the upstream side, we also need viable solutions on the downstream, or consumer side, for converting biodegradable waste of all sorts into a usable resource. Composting is one great option, but it does require time, space, and infrastructure to support it, so it can't be a one-size-fits-all solution without a major shift in the way we deal with our waste on a local and regional level.
However, one potential solution may lie in what's called the HORSE, or High-solids Organic-waste Recycling System with Electrical Output, device, currently in development from Impact Bioenergy. This portable anaerobic digestion system can accept a wide variety of organic waste materials, ranging from kitchen scraps and yard waste to paper products, and generate both liquid fertilizer and energy in the form of biogas and electricity.
Assuming one of the devices could be placed in each neighborhood or community (accompanied by a rigorous recycling and overall waste-reduction program), the HORSE system could eventually "eradicate curbside garbage pickup" and avoid the carbon emissions associated with that element of waste management.
According to Impact Bioenergy, each HORSE unit is capable of converting 25 tons per year of organic waste into about 5400 gallons of liquid fertilizer and up to 37 MWh (megawatt-hours) of energy. With a daily input rate of 135 lb (61.2 kg) of organic waste, a single HORSE could produce up to 360,000 BTU of energy per day, and 2.5 kW per hour in electric output, with virtually no waste, using the power of microbes to do the heavy lifting. Each unit is said to cost $43,300 USD, and to take the device from prototype to a containerized production model, Impact Bioenergy is seeking crowdfunding with a Kickstarter campaign.
The impact that an affordable and portable anaerobic digestion unit like this could have on local waste management issues, renewable energy production, and reduced transportation emissions is potentially huge, even without coupling it to a low-carbon transport model. But if, as Impact Bioenergy sees it, the electrical output from a HORSE was used to power an electric cargo trike, then the 'horsepower' from these units could truly be a gamechanger.
"When generating electricity this energy converts into about 5,000 kWh per year. If a Tesla gets around 2 miles per kWh, our HORSE could power that Tesla to go about 10,000 miles per year. Not bad. Keep in mind, that car weighs 2.5 tons though. To improve transportation productivity, we decided to lose the unnecessary weight and create a carbon neutral urban cargo tricycle powered by human and electric motorhub.
Let’s go Back-to-the-future and call this the HORSEPOWERED CARRIAGE. Fully loaded, this carriage weighs around 0.3 tons. Now we can squeeze the work out of every kWh and transport stuff more than 10 miles per kWh. That's a 5x improvement in electric vehicle productivity or about 52,000 miles per year! This mind-blowing combination could be the next-gen HORSE and CARRIAGE, from waste to wheels...1 lb of food scraps can fuel 1 mile of electric transport!" - Impact Bioenergy
For more information on the project, and how you can contribute to its success, see the HORSE Kickstarter campaign page.