Tactics Magazine: Shopping centers can improve their operational and environmental impact by using data-driven, food waste disposal solution
Due to the complex nature of mall operations, shopping center owners face a number of challenges when trying to make their properties more efficient while adhering to their CSR mandates. Since tenants command much of the mall’s operational needs, there is a hastened demand for owners to find and introduce strategies that will both improve property operations and showcase their commitment to preserving the environment. You can see how tricky it is to keep that balance as soon as you step into the food court.
Today’s malls have become more than just a collection of retail stores. Dining has emerged as a more important asset than most major department store anchors in driving traffic and sales. Food courts and restaurants serve thousands of meals each day, but they subsequently generate huge piles of garbage. Banishing Styrofoam and reducing single-use plastic dining ware are among important steps that centers have taken towards creating a more sustainable pile. However, there still exists the problem of how to best dispose of the waste. Managing and disposing waste for a large group of businesses, under the umbrella of one entity, throughout the day, can be a challenge. So, when trying to find an operationally satisfying, environmentally friendly and economically beneficial solution for the wasted food, many malls are now turning to an on-site solution.
On-site Aerobic Digesters
Some sustainability-minded centers are now using new technology to handle their waste, including aerobic digesters. These units are relatively compact, fit easily behind the scenes of a busy food court, are quiet and reliable. The digesters require very little to operate: power, hot/cold water, access to a floor drain, and food waste. Once the scraps are added to the digester, they are quickly converted into nutrient-neutral water or “grey-water” that is sent down the drain and transported safely through standard sewer lines to wastewater treatment facilities. Aerobic digesters process the waste continuously throughout the day, at a rate of up to 2500 pounds of food per 24 hours. They eliminate the food at the point of generation and therefore leave nothing to store, transport or haul away.
This disposal solution no longer requires tenants to haul their heavy wet food waste further than a few paces from their restaurants, as opposed to taking it to a distant, poorly lit or unsecured compactor. The more efficient disposal process will improve center tenants’ overall daily experience, allowing them to be more productive while reducing risk for their employees. Using an on-site digester also requires fewer trucks coming and going, so it frees up a mall’s loading dock for other vehicles and results in more efficient deliveries and a cleaner dock. And avoiding long-distance hauling will reduce the mall’s carbon footprint, too.
What a Digester Can Process
If you have typical food court organic waste, then an aerobic digester can handle it. Here are just a few examples of what you can feed it:
• prepared foods
Tracking the Waste for a Wide Variety of Tenants
Smart aerobic digesters are more than just pieces of equipment offering shopping center owners an easier, cleaner and more efficient way to dispose of their tenant’s food waste. The more advanced digesters can now help businesses reduce food waste leaving less of which to dispose. Data collected and recorded from these high-tech units can help operations managers classify the volume of waste by tenant, by hour of the day and by employee, giving them the ability to establish a consistent set of policies, procedures, and best practices for the disposal of all food waste.
The digital transformation of the waste data can also present new opportunities for mall management to engage consumers and communicate the value of sustainability to retail staff. Messaging through digital signage can link immediate data on a center’s sustainability efforts to customers and tenants, while creating a stronger brand perception. Owners can also use the data to organize a rewards program that recognizes the top performing businesses.
An on-site disposal solution that integrates data to prevent waste generation will give food court tenants and restaurants the means to establish a company-wide process to be implemented in their locations all across their chains. Classifying waste by tenant will also provide the necessary data to the food service establishments to unlock their wasteful ways in order to purchase more efficiently, reduce their storage needs, and lessen the demand on mall operations.
On-site technology offers a more profitable outcome for both the shopping center owners and tenants, but it’s the waste data that will keep the mall relevant, boost efficiency, and improve environmental performance.