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CaribShare Biogas -1st Caribbean social enterprise turning organic waste into clean energy, fertilizer, and social good

We recycle organic waste from hotels and small pig farms into clean energy and fertilizer in a manner that strengthens rural livelihoods.

Photo of Carol Lue
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CaribShare Biogas is a social enterprise and registered charity in Jamaica collecting food waste from hotels and manure from small pig farms that when processed by our biodigester plant produces biogas (type of biofuel) and fertilizer for sale. Our mission is to deliver clean energy from organic waste in a manner that strengthens rural livelihoods.

We sell the biogas to business customers who are high energy users so they can self-generate electricity to achieve significant cost savings from purchasing from the grid.

We also sell the organic fertilizer at a highly affordable rate to farmers to help lower their production cost and promote organic farming.

And, through our “Waste to Cash” program, we share up to 50% of our surplus revenues from biogas and fertilizer sales with our participating pig farmers as generous cash rewards in exchange for supplying us their waste. In this way, we provide meaningful income to help support their families and the vitality of their communities, which is essentially our social mission.

We recycle and divert tremendous quantities of organic waste from landfills, and are thrilled about using it as a valuable resource to help solve the challenges of renewable energy, climate change, and rural poverty.  We plan to develop several biodigester plants in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries to broaden our socio-economic impact across the region.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

After 3+ inspiring and challenging years of development, we started operations on September 1, 2016 with a staff of 6 at our pilot 400 m3 biodigester plant in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Our plant is currently processing food waste from 6 major hotels, and next month we will be adding waste from 50+ pig farms from the surrounding area. Undoubtedly, over the coming months, our idea will be tested as we aim to turn organic waste into energy, fertilizer, and social good.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We are collecting tremendous quantities of food waste from our participating hotels. So, it is essential that their kitchen staff appropriately sort the waste and put only organics into our green CaribShare bins. Getting the staff to comply so that waste sorting becomes instinctual is a challenge given their high turnover. In addition, the kitchens are often cramped, making space available for both inorganic and organic waste bins tricky. We need your help on how best to address these issues.

Tell us about your work experience:

I have a multidisciplinary background with over 15 years experience working in business, sustainability, and international development for such companies and institutions as Sears Canada, Canadian Institute of Planners, and the Ministry of Energy in Jamaica. In addition, I have a MBA degree in International Economics & Finance from Brandeis International Business School and a MS degree in Environmental Planning from the University of Toronto.

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

How far along is your idea?

  • It’s launched and we’re working on gathering more feedback – it’s existed for over 6 months

How would you describe this idea to your grandmother?

CaribShare collects organic waste from hotels and farms, and then feeds it into our biodigester plant to produce biogas (type of biofuel) and fertilizer for sale. We then share our surplus revenues with our participating farmers. In this way, we provide them an extra income source to help support their families, while disposing of waste sustainably and producing renewable energy.

[Only for launched ideas] How does your idea differ from what you're already doing?

We have launched our idea and have been operating our pilot biodigester for just over a month. So far, the results have been favorable as we are already diverting about 4 tons of food waste daily from landfills. By November, this quantity will increase to about 10 tons daily to produce enough biogas to generate 100 kW of clean electricity. Over the coming months, we will continue to solicit feedback from our partners. However, our idea has not differed from what we are currently doing.

How is your idea unique to the space?

CaribShare is the first organic waste recycling facility and biogas plant in Jamaica to generate electricity on a sustained basis. Our pioneering program is a key energy solution both for Jamaica and the Caribbean, a region with a pressing need to utilize organic waste as a renewable energy source to help alleviate its heavy dependency on expensive fossil fuel imports. And, as a social enterprise, we generate significant social good in addition to our environmental and energy benefits.

Who needs to play a role in your idea in order to make it successful?

We already have strong support from the hotel and farming communities in Jamaica. However, we need the support of social impact investors and funders to implement our growth plan to develop additional biogas plants in Jamaica and the Caribbean. By scaling up, we will be better able to deliver immense social good in addition to our environmental and energy benefits. As a social enterprise and registered charity, we are seeking funding support in the forms of grants and low interest loans.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

We plan to measure the impact of our idea from the following indicators: (i) Quantities of organic waste collected monthly from hotels and diverted from landfills, (ii) Quantities of biogas produced and electricity generated monthly, (iii) Quantities of organic fertilizer produced monthly, (iv) Quantities of greenhouse gas emission reductions monthly, (v) Number of participating pig farmers quarterly, (vi) Amount of cash rewards distributed to participating farmers quarterly.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

(i) Continue to operate our pilot biodigester plant efficiently and to master biogas production for electricity generation, (ii) Continue to build collaborative relationships with our hotel and farming partners, (iii) Continue to embed proper waste sorting practices in hotel operations, (iii) Continue to nurture a culture of empowerment for our employees, (iv) Continue to drive social impact in our target farming communities, (v) Continue to seek funding to support CaribShare’s growth plan.

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Spam
Photo of William Mason
Team

I want to say I love this concept, and I think the experiment can be taken much further. Here is what I was thinking: Transformation of Latent Value The problem of food waste and its value stream...   If you ever tour the Chicago Board of Trade in Chicago you will learn that Derivatives or Futures Exchange revolutionized food distribution. Before grain Futures grain rotted on the docks and went to waste. There was no mechanism for commodity prices to sync with market requirements. In other words the solution was to monetize the waste stream and play a little bit of jazz with the Value Stream. We tend to think of Waste as the opposite of Value. But with solid or liquified organic waste, the problem is a bit more complex. So is the opportunity. During college I read a book about the Chinese cultural revolution and I distinctly remember a story about collecting “night soil” and how they used it to fertilize their fields. In other words, processed food waste = fertilizer = food. So, why don’t we just hook up our sewer system and garbage disposals to the farming grid and let them use our “waste” to grow new food? Simple, right, well, not so much. What about the other gross stuff that people put down their drain? Bleach, chemicals of every sort, paint, soap, shampoo, dishwashing detergent, various non-bio items, Hmmm, that is really a problem, unless? Unless, someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to change. It’s not. (--the Lorax) So, why not bifurcate the waste stream like we did with “sanitary” and “storm” sewers? Maybe I just wanted to use the word bifurcate, but instead of dumping toxic stuff into the waste stream we make a way to make it better. Bio-positive shampoo, dish detergent, laundry detergent. Is that so difficult to imagine? Yes, I am talking about an architectural, political, plumbing revolution! It doesn’t even need to happen right now, but a change in the building code could be mandated by law, and over 20+ years, we could change from a society that doesn’t live in harmony with Nature, to a society that manages and improves Nature. Does anybody really know what happens to our poop and waste water right now? What happens to the stuff we flush down the toilet? Silly, I don’t really know. We take it for granted. This is how we do it! Yet. I wonder? What if we monitor our sewer systems? Doesn’t it make you a little frustrated to know that if you run your sprinkler system in the summer you get charged for the same amount of sewer usage as you do water usage as if you were dumping the lawn water down the sewer. Hmm. That seems wrong. Do we do that right now? if we do it is not very transparent. Same with all utilities: We know that we use less electricity if we know when and how we use it. We are getting nickel and quartered by our utilities. Internet of things can mean a paradigm shift for our interaction with utilities grid. What if we prove how we can rework, reuse, tranform, waste, and then as we discover the value of the waste we can slowly change the pathways for distribution. It is a fact that the US has an old and in some cases failing water/sewer infrastructure. Now is the time to rethink sensible ways to redesign those systems for the next 100+ years. 

Spam
Photo of Prasanna Shrivastava
Team

Thank you for adding me to the team. I looked at your videos and believe that this could be a really good idea for openideo. What help do you need to complete the tasks for the refinement stage? As per the pdf by openideo, we'll need to complete the refinement questions, develop user journeys and provide feedback from your prototype that you have put in place.

Spam
Photo of Rachana Vidhi
Team

Excellent post Carol! (And thanks for tagging me Prasanna Shrivastava ). One of the challenges that I was considering was the reward program for the waste provider. In case of the pig farmers, it seems that there is "one" source that can easily be benefited. What are your plans for rewarding the hotels that participate in this program? I would love to hear more about your program and find synergies to implement it in India as well.

Spam
Photo of Carol Lue
Team

Thanks, Rachana for your comments. The hotels are very happy that we are significantly reducing both the financial and environmental cost of their waste disposal.  Plus, they appreciate that they can support the small farming communities through us.

Spam
Photo of Rachana Vidhi
Team

Thanks Carol. It does make sense that the hotels are also saving money on transportation and waste disposal. And the "green impact" of this initiative certainly makes them look and feel good. Is there an incentive for them from the government or local agencies that might encourage more of the hotels and restaurants to participate in the program?

Spam
Photo of Prasanna Shrivastava
Team

Great initiative and excellent execution! Being able to share 50% of revenue is really nice! .. Tagging Rachana Vidhi here who also has a similar idea.. Waste to cash plan mentioned here is particularly interesting..

Spam
Photo of Carol Lue
Team

Thanks, Prasanna for your well wishes.  We are very excited to offer our "Waste to Cash" program to our target farming communities.

Spam
Photo of Amber Matthews
Team

This is a very inspiring project, I want to see this go far.

Spam
Photo of Carol Lue
Team

Thanks, Amber.  We are developing wonderful partnerships with the hotel and farming communities so that we can go far.

Spam
Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Congratulations on being one of the forty ideas in the refinement phases. I used to work in the energy sector and I just want to make the OpenIdeo community aware of the fact that Jamaica is heavily reliant on imports to meet their energy needs. Therefore there is a lot of interest in renewable energy to increase the energy independence of Jamaica, as well as for environmental reasons. This is the same situation across most countries in the Caribbean with only a few exceptions e.g.  Trinidad and Tobago. Are you able to share some financial information with us? How much would you sell the biogas for and how does it compare to current gas prices? The same question for organic fertiliser. What are the next steps for CaribShare? What is the labelling/instructions on the CaribShare bins? Would you post some photos?

Spam
Photo of Carol Lue
Team

Thanks, Kate for your well wishes.  We are proud and excited to be pioneering the conversion of organic waste into electricity in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

Spam
Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Welcome to the Refinement phase Carol! We've added new Refinement questions to your original submission that we'd love for you to answer. Please check out the Refinement Phase Toolkit for instructions on how to answer the new questions and other recommendations we encourage all idea teams to consider in the upcoming weeks.

Refinement Phase Toolkit: http://ideo.pn/2du9sf7

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 09/28" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

Spam
Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Carol, we updated the link to the Refinement Toolkit. Please use this new link instead: https://d3gxp3iknbs7bs.cloudfront.net/attachments/bda1f109-0466-4f8e-9699-1359e406df56.pdf

Spam
Photo of Nicholas Sylvester
Team

Hello,

Are you planning to sell the biogas raw, or do you intend to refine it before selling to your customers? Raw biogas is very inefficient, and a large part of it does not combust. Further, raw biogas includes some corrosive gases that can greatly reduce the lifespan of power generation equipment. Since you plan to sell it as a fuel product, running the biogas through a simple sulphide and CO2 scrubber system might be something to consider. This will produce a much purer methane gas, greatly increasing the efficiency and value of your fuel product.

How are you planning to distribute the gas? Do you intend to use pressurised gas canisters, or something different? Have you considered eventually adding the infrastructure to your digester plants to generate power on-site? It may be an option worth considering, depending on the output of your digesters and the potential difficulty of gas distribution. There can be quite a bit of overhead involved in the distribution of such a volatile product, and expanding your business plan vertically may be the best way to do things. Cutting out the distribution step would also make your business that much more environmentally friendly, which seems to be one of your overall goals. It would also strengthen the domestic power grid of your country, which would be very beneficial in the long run. As one of the previous commenters noted, much of the Caribbean is dependent on importing energy from overseas, and starting local methane power generation could improve the situation.

Many of the options available to you depend on the rate of gas production you’re seeing from your digester. What sort of production rate are you getting? You mentioned that processing began on September 1st, so you should be seeing a usable product by now. How is the digestion progressing?

I look forward to seeing how this idea progresses,

Nicholas Sylvester

Spam
Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Great to have you onboard! We noticed your post is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have it be included in the challenge. You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your post by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. We're looking forward to seeing your contribution in this challenge.