NATIONAL REPORT—Foodservice operations are notorious for generating a lot of waste. Oftentimes, this can mean higher hauling fees, labor costs associated with trips to the dumpster, poor indoor air quality and a greater likelihood for pests and their related costs. Fortunately, equipment such as disposers and in-kitchen composting machines are available to reduce foodservice waste.
According to Bill Sobanski, general manager for InSinkErator, Racine, Wisc., most hotels with some type of foodservice operation use disposers. Larger facilities often will have multiple disposers for food waste. With running water acting as the means for removal, disposers pulverize the waste. It ultimately makes its way to a wastewater treatment plant where it is processed into biosolids, which most often are reused as a compost-quality fertilizer.
“The most environmentally sound way of getting rid of food waste is to use a disposer,” says Sobanski, whose company invented the food waste disposer in 1937. “Only biodegradable waste should go down a food disposer.”
Disposers come in different sizes and models, depending on the horsepower needed. InSinkErator offers four sizes and 11 different models. Disposers can be water eaters but they do not have to be. InSinkErator’s AquaSaver, for example, cuts water consumption by 70 percent or more. When the disposer is idle, it reduces water flow from five gallons a minute to just one, potentially saving thousands of gallons of water a day. InSinkErator’s website includes a calculator to determine how much water one can save.
When shopping for a disposer, Sobanski says to look for sturdiness and stainless steel construction. The number of meals served on a daily basis should determine the type of system that you buy. Large banquet facilities may require disposers with up to 10 HP motors.
Sobanski says commercial disposers can run from $1,500 to $4,000 but offer payback periods as short as four or five months in some instances.
In addition to disposers that accept only biodegradable food waste, waste reduction systems are available to process wastes that include paper place mats, napkins, sugar or jelly packets, milk cartons and drinking straws. This type of disposer grinds the kitchen waste, which is then sent to a dewatering unit where water is squeezed out. Solid waste is reduced by 85 percent of its original volume. In areas that do not allow kitchen waste to flow into the sewage system, food waste reduction systems still help the environment by reducing the volume of waste sent to landfills, and significantly reduce carting costs.
“The goal of any system should be to keep restaurant food waste out of landfills,” says Kendall Christiansen, principal, Gaia Strategies, Brooklyn, N.Y., and an environmental affairs consultant advising InSinkErator.
Composting in the Kitchen
At last fall’s International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show in New York, Action Comax Environmental Inc., Newark, N.J., introduced BioX, a high-volume organic waste decomposition system. The technology originally was developed in Korea seven years ago, but it did not come to North America until two years ago.
The company’s stainless steel machines sit right in the kitchen and compost vegetables, fruit and even meat. Waste is broken down through a biological process until it is in a liquid state that can be sent down the drain and into the sewage system. Using microorganisms inserted into the machine, BioX eliminates hundreds of pounds of organic waste each day, and reduces trash hauling fees and related labor costs. When garbage trucks are not going back and forth to the landfill as often, energy is saved and air quality improves.
Chris Balfe, director with Action Comax Environmental, says microorganisms, water and a natural deodorizing chemical made from plant and flower oils are added to the waste to make the compost process work.
“What leaves the machine is 90 percent water,” Balfe says. “Just a little bit of organic material remains. The food waste is already decomposed by the time it reaches the waste stream.”
Balfe says the machines require a hot and cold water supply and a two-inch drain to connect the machine to. The drain pipe from the machine drains into the floor sink. The machines run on 220-volt power and take just a few hours to install. A computer monitors temperature, humidity and controls the revolution speed of the paddles in the machine. Thanks to a wireless device, Action Comax Environmental can monitor the machines from an off-site location.
The BioX system, which is available in different sizes—from 150-pound capacity to 1,500-pound—can compost hundreds of pounds of food waste down to about one-fourth the amount in gallons of liquid. Users are advised not to put bones into the machine. It takes about 12 to 16 hours to eliminate 50 percent of the waste.
Action Comax Environmental leases its machines and charges $750/month for a 600-pound capacity machine. The lease includes regular servicing of the machine and the chemicals required. The machines use about $15 of electricity per month. The byproducts of the composting process are water, carbon dioxide and heat.
“The more you feed the system, the more it heats itself,” Balfe says.
BioX users do need approval from the local environmental or health department to use it but Balfe says his company has never been told that it cannot install a machine.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.