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MANTECA — The city of Manteca is way ahead of the game when it comes to complying with California’s new law requiring cities to keep food waste out of landfills in two years.

Manteca’s sewage facility can now process food waste, as well as sewage, and turn it into methane that can power its fleet of garbage trucks.

The $35 million project took five years to complete.

Two large tanks can now “digest” the waste using bacteria and heat-producing gas that is refined.

“Humans do the same thing. It’s not a nice thing when we do it but here it’s a very nice thing,” said Senior Engineer Bret Swain.

The gas goes to filling stations for the trucks and to furnaces that are used in the digesters.

Sewage plants in other cities have been used to produce gas but Manteca is one of the few to use the biogas to fuel its trucks, reducing the city’s carbon footprint and eliminating food from landfills.

Food waste eventually turns into methane at landfills, a greenhouse gas that is 28 times more harmful to the environment as carbon dioxide. The city is looking for long-term benefits.

“It will, in time, start saving the city money, monies that we can then divert to other facilities that need to be built,” said Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu.

Other cities that are still trying to figure out a way to comply with the state law are looking at Manteca’s food to energy plant as a model.

It still has to get a machine on line that separates food waste from other garbage but once it begins operations, it could begin processing food waste for other cities as well.