The circular economy shows up at the home of Mickey Mouse

Posted on 06 September 2016.

At Walt Disney World in Florida, food scraps don’t end up in the trash. They’re collected and processed in a biogas plant.

Every year millions of people converge on Walt Disney World in Florida, and in particular on the Magic Kingdom, the most visited theme park in the world. But the Disney magic is not just about enchanting attractions, smiling princesses, great animated movie classics and night time parades... A way away from Cinderella’s Castle, the huge leisure complex transforms food waste into electricity and fertilizer.

How? Anaerobic digestion - a natural biological process that breaks down organic matter when there is no oxygen present.

Since 2014, food scraps and grease have been collected from the restaurants and hotels in Disney World, and sent to a biogas plant, a few kilometers from the park. There they are fed into two giant tanks called digesters. A number of different microorganisms are involved in the anaerobic digestion process which produces a biogas consisting of 50 to 70% methane and 20-50% carbon dioxide. The biogas is then burned to produce electricity and heat. This reaction also leaves a residue rich in organic matter known as the digestate, which is a valuable fertilizer when spread on agricultural land.

The biogas plant therefore reduces the amount of organic waste, limits greenhouse gas emissions and produces renewable energy, which is then sold back to Disney World to run its attractions and its hotel complex.