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How to get leftover spaghetti to power your iPad

Some Brits were in the Bay Area this week trying to persuade the progressive locals to invest in MuckBusters, which allegedly turn your leftovers into energy.


How do you feel when you're tossing food into the garbage or the waste disposal?

Do tinges of guilt bubble in your throat? Does a soupcon of self-loathing slither around your brain, as you pour that curried cauliflower soup into an unknown beyond?

I bring you news that might assist your psychological health. For just this week, some British people from a clean-tech company called SeaB have been sliding around the Bay Area, trying to get our eco-princes to invest in MuckBusters.

These artfully named objects are containers into which you can shove your leftover spaghetti, tacos, or duck a l'orange and expect, after a little technical machination, to get electricity.

If you believe the estimates, all you need is half a ton of unwanted food to run about 150 computers. Which presents a sobering counterpoint to the impression one has that 150 people sitting at computers in the average office consume at least 150 tons of food.

Some will be wondering how this machine busts your meatballs. Well, you shove your food in at one end and it gets chewed up by bacteria. As often with chewing, a lot of gas emerges. Your friendly MuckBuster does a little filtering, gets itself a methane stream and then slips that gas through a heat and power system.

Suddenly, the leftovers from your power lunch have created, well, power.

SeaB was declared one of the 16 most innovative clean tech companies in the U.K. by the nation's Technology Strategy Board and a righteously digested government body called UK Trade & Investment.

The companies came to San Francisco this week for the Clean Tech Forum -- something that no doubt requires participants to gargle last thing at night with leftover Coors Light.

The cleansters at SeaB were clever enough, though, to come armed with fascinating local facts -- all of which, stunningly, support the MuckBuster's dollar-hauling muck busting.

For example, food is the largest single source (15.5 percent) of waste in California. Apparently, 6 million tons of food are dumped annually by Californians. This is, allegedly, enough to fill the Staples Center 35 times. Or, to put it another way, the Los Angeles Clippers from 2000 to 2011.

And if only the MuckBusterers could get hold of San Francisco's leftovers they believe they would power 22,000 homes for a year.

Being somewhat nasal, I wondered whether they would, well, stink. SeaB's CEO, Sandra Sassow told me: "They smell like roses."

Oh, of course she was laughing. She insists they smell no worse than a dumpster. "You can use them anywhere," she added. "Including the Great Lakes to get rid of that extra carp."

It takes just one 40-foot container to process half a ton of waste. "We're like an iPod Touch compared to the other guy's main frame computers," she told me.

It seems that there is no end of enthusiasm for what to do with waste these days. Why, it seems like only the last rain shower that I heard of Denver Zoo powering its rickshaws with donkey droppings.

Surely, one day, we will only eat food that we've consumed before, as MuckBusters gives birth to MuckBasters, a company that cooks new food out of the juices of old food.

Mankind's ingenuity, like its wastefulness, is infinite.