Consumers in all industries continue to make the world’s pile of trash a little taller every year. As globalization is on the rise, goods are being produced—and thrown away—at alarming rates. With all this trash, the waste industry is at a crossroads: the amount of waste ending up in a landfill is at a steady increase, but we have more information and technology than ever before to guide us in a better direction. According to the LA Times, the United States “produced about 228 million tons of waste in 2006, a figure that climbed to 254 million tons by 2013.” Trash is on the rise, and cities throughout the United States simply can’t keep up. Even though, according to Business Insider, “America tosses five pounds of trash per person per day into its landfills,” many people don’t recognize their growing consumption as a problem. In the lodging industry specifically, there are many one-time use consumer goods that contribute to this issue. However, with this type of data combined with the latest information on how to reduce and recycle waste, we can better understand the importance of removing trash in the most efficient and eco-friendly way.
Food Waste Strategy
One of the first steps in removing trash is making sure every component of the waste is being distributed to its appropriate destination. Sorting out recyclables like cardboard, plastics, paper and glass is key. When it comes to food, the first thing that we should review is an effective food donation program. There are millions of food insecure households throughout the United States and getting surplus food to these people is critical. However, not all food is eligible to be donated and so the most efficient way to dispose of waste from a hotel restaurant, breakfast buffet, or lobby kitchenette is by having an on-site composting system. Composting is not a new concept, but it is a simple and time-tested system that is easy to implement. The process starts with the microbes and worms that live in the soil, which then break down and decompose the organic material. The bacteria of the organic materials are what powers the composting system to then distribute carbon dioxide and heat, which can then in turn fuel the flame in a kitchen. Not only is energy created from composting, but it also lowers emissions (food in a landfill creates methane gas) and revitalizes soils by replacing the minerals. This process is a perfect way to ensure that food waste is removed in the most efficient way possible.
The lodging industry is particularly unique in the challenge that the consumers of its services are typically on the go and have little time or need to review recycling options. As a result, contamination is rampant and makes a recycling program for the property extremely difficult. The good news is that any step in the right direction, is a step in the right direction. Start with identifying what is most commonly being discarded by guests that is recyclable. Typically, this is going to be plastic/glass beverage containers, newspapers and other paper products. Developing an on-site signage program as well as in-suite trash and recycling bins is a great place to start in diverting this waste from the waste stream. The second tier would be to identify what items are consistently being generated that could be recycled by the property staff such as used soap. In making these small changes you can start to make your property significantly greener while also reducing your overall waste costs.
With each piece of food waste composted and plastic bottle recycled comes the beginning of an eco-conscious change of mind. These are easy steps to take when faced with staggering statistics on waste and its impact. However, the next step in executing a lasting change is to benchmark where you’re currently at while also tracking your progress in a meaningful format. The company I cofounded helps large chain operators do just that. Elytus serves companies of all sizes in all industries, helping them dispose of their trash properly and more sustainably from procurement to payment. Elytus’ software, called WINStream, connects a client straight with the best service vendor for the job—whether it be waste dumpsters, compactors or recycling services all the way to grease trap cleaning, fry oil recovery, and exhaust hood cleaning. This cuts out the need for a middleman, allowing a company to see exactly what makes up their total waste stream, what vendors are the overall best value, and how they can better dispose of their waste to be more environmentally conscious. It’s a technology that links together and improves all aspects of waste management. Armed with these benchmark attributes to your program you’ll be able to measure your success in disposing of waste efficiently while also producing cost savings to your bottom line.
History has proven that as time goes on, the amount of waste in the landfill continues to increase. Focusing on each aspect of recycling and being attentive of environmental details can result in a more streamlined approach to removing trash from your facility. Consumers care about the millions of pounds of trash that end up in the landfill every year. Traditional waste management systems like composting, hiring specialized haulers, along with implementing new technology like WINstream, is a true commitment to change that they will appreciate. As an operator in the lodging industry, it’s important to consider all aspects of your waste stream in order to position yourself to be in the most sustainable place saving money, increasing awareness, reducing landfill tonnage and showing your customers you care.
Matthew S. Hollis is the cofounder and President of Elytus. Serial IT entrepreneur and Elytus CEO Dr. Alan Dillman started Elytus in 2007 after meeting Hollis as a candidate for the entrepreneurial incubator Dillman was running, The Center for Business Innovation (CBI) at Cedarville University. Hollis and Dillman saw a market opportunity to provide better waste solutions for chain retailers, such as restaurants and grocery stores, by connecting them straight to waste haulers and giving transparency into the waste management process. Elytus provides this through their WINStream software system, a proprietary technology that audits, analyzes, and improves the waste stream while also promoting sustainability.
In addition to waste management and sustainability services, Elytus is a leading provider of managed environmental and sanitary services as well, helping clients manage their diversion planning, composting, grease trap and fry oil disposal, hood cleaning, and more. Today, Elytus has over 50 nationwide clients—including many popular chain restaurants and grocery stores—servicing over 10,000 locations. These clients use Elytus to track their waste, reduce their hauling costs and to implement waste minimization strategies.