Buildings Services Management – October 2015 Issue: By Frank E. Celli
Buildings and building occupants today are tasked with maintaining a waste reduction and recycling program that addresses food waste.
The EPA estimates that more than 30 million tons of food waste is transported to landfills each year by means of an inefficient disposal process that is neither sustainable for our planet nor cost efficient.
According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), in order to be LEED certified 50 to 70 percent of that waste stream must be diverted from landfills and incinerators. And because many buildings are designed to be LEED certified and efficient, buildings with food operations on site need a food waste diversion solution.
Choosing the right food waste diversion solution for your building that generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions will help towards a building’s status of “green”, improve efficiency and profits, and have less of an impact on the local environment.
As waste costs rise, technologies like on-site aerobic digestion are gaining in popularity because of their value to improve operational efficiency and profits as well as offering owners access to detailed waste data.
Aerobic Digesters were developed to eliminate food waste at its point of generation but only a few can accurately measure every morsel of waste and provide building owners with the data necessary to prevent food waste entirely.
Aerobic digesters use organic microorganisms to accelerate food’s natural decomposition process while maintaining optimal levels of aeration, moisture, and temperature. Under these controlled conditions, the microorganisms can safely digest food waste at a rate much faster than under the natural conditions found in methods such as composting converting the food waste into a nutrient-neutral water or “grey-water” that is sent down the drain and transported safely through standard sewer lines to wastewater treatment facilities that use the digested food waste to create energy.
Aerobic Digesters are typically installed by the loading dock or in the back of a food service establishment quietly digesting food waste continuously throughout each day.
The Digester allows buildings to reduce the amount of labor involved in transporting the food waste within the building to a compactor and reduces the cleanup associated with messy compactors or onsite bins, while leaving nothing to be hauled away.
Processing food waste on-site eliminates operational costs, storage capacity issues, and safety concerns, but more importantly empowers building owners and the generators of the food waste with the transparency and knowledge that will allow them to make smarter decisions so they can learn how to effectively start preventing waste.
Having the information needed to analyze a building’s waste stream in conjunction with facility operators and supervisor schedules provides a more telling operational picture of the building and the staff. Being able to tell what is being wasted, at what time waste is being created, and who is managing the waste are the types of insights that will allow buildings to become more sustainable.
This real-time data performance not only increases accountability, engagement, and efficiency efforts but also contributes to a green building status. Beyond that, a building owner can use performance results as a driver to elevate the efficiency from one building to another no matter how many buildings or geographic locations are involved. In addition to a building owner’s interest, investors are becoming increasingly aware of those buildings with no clear roadmap in terms of food waste management.
Research has shown that more efficient buildings have a higher occupancy rate and increased asset value compared to typical buildings. More and more businesses are imposing voluntary sustainability goals specific to food waste diversion and in the case of state and local regulatory agencies that have implemented bans on food waste to landfills, on-site aerobic digestion has proven to be effective in meeting the needs of those buildings operating in municipalities that have made commitments to reduce the amount of food waste going to landfills.
Food waste can no longer be “bagged up” for collection and transported to landfill sites, therefore building owner’s need to start exploring new approaches to waste management that incorporate clean technologies to not only dispose of food waste in a more efficient manner, but also provide data that will allow for the prevention of the waste all together.
On-site aerobic technology is a cost effective way to divert food waste from landfills and offers a building less of an impact on the local environment.
The cost of holding off another year could be substantial.