Thomas Culhane: Turning Trash Into Food

Adjunct Professor, Mercy College



If the idea of turning your kitchen garbage and toilet waste into safe, clean methane gas to use for cooking, heating your home, and generating electricity sounds far-fetched, you haven’t met Dr. Thomas Culhane of Mercy College.

The Dobbs Ferry native, Harvard grad, noted urban planner, and 2009 National Geographic “Emerging Explorer” has long been researching the viability of household-scale biodigesters—oxygen-free tanks that digest kitchen scraps using the microbes found in animal waste or lake mud and turn them into an environmentally friendly bio-methane gas. Now, he’s gone a step further by also using a byproduct of the biodigester as a fertilizer for vertical aeroponic (growing without soil) gardens.

“The liquid that comes out of our food waste-to-fuel-and-fertilizer biogas system is perfect for growing nutritious fruits and vegetables, so we never need to buy anything,” Culhane explains. 

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