As food waste diversion mandates become more common in cities and states throughout the country, commercial establishments are often the first stakeholders to feel the effects.
Unlike residential customers, they usually generate a more homogeneous stream of material in larger quantities — and because of this, they’re seen as a good starting point for making a dent in the 40% of food wasted in the U.S. every year. While recovery for donations is a growing priority, and many haulers are outfitting their fleets to collect organics, some businesses have taken the route of processing their material on-site.
Thanks to creative design, smart engineering and a healthy dose of startup funding, a host of technologies are now on the market for restaurants, retailers, food wholesalers and other large generators to execute organics waste processing. Their individual methods and applications differ, but all offer intriguing potential for diverting food and other organics from landfills and helping create local closed-loop systems. Solutions from these five companies have caught Waste Dive’s attention lately.
BioHiTech’s Eco-Safe Digester uses a proprietary bacteria formula to break down material through aerobic digestion. The unit can turn up to 2,500 pounds of material per day into greywater that can be sent through standard sewer systems with no residual solids. Data is tracked through the BioHiTech Cloud which customers can then use to track usage and provide metrics for sustainability reports. Companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts have begun using the digesters in select locations and BioHiTech aims to have 400 units in operation by the end of the year.
Impact Bioenergy, a Seattle startup, offers portable anaerobic digestion in two sizes — the HORSE and the NAUTILUS — which provide a capacity range of 960 to 35,000 pounds of material per week. The technology is intended for larger operations, special events or even community-scale collections. Additionally no sewer hookup is required as the only end-products are natural gas and fertilizer.
Both materials can take a variety of forms — vehicle fuel has even been discussed — and Impact is currently exploring partnerships with a range of sources. After a successful test in British Columbia last year, the company has now deployed its first HORSE unit at a Seattle brewery. More local projects are underway and requests have started coming in from around the world.
Founded by two former Microsoft managers, WISErg has attracted more than $24 million in funding. WISErg’s Harvester machine is targeted toward grocery stores and commercial kitchens which generate between 400 and 4,000 pounds of organic waste on a daily basis. Data on the weight, age, source and reason for disposal of a material are all captured to help businesses better understand what they’re throwing away. Then, the machine grinds the food into a slurry — no sewer hookup is required — and WISErg collects the material to create liquid fertilizer.
Hungry Giant, a company founded in Australia, has brought its food dehydration machine to the U.S. Available in six sizes that can handle anywhere from 120 to 2,400 pounds of material over multi-hour cycles of varying lengths, the technology reportedly reduces food waste volume by 80-90%. The resulting steam can be discharged as water and the organic material is turned into a dry soil amendment. Hungry Giant can be found in more than 50 locations in Sydney — including Hilton Worldwide Hotel — and was recently installed as a pilot project at the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club in the United Arab Emirates.
InSinkErator created the Grind2Energy subsidiary in 2013 to service businesses that generate more than one ton of food waste per week. The unit grinds up material using minimal water in quick fashion. This resulting slurry is then stored in a large holding tank — custom sizes and set-ups are available — to be trucked off to an anaerobic digester. So far the technology has been installed in roughly 40 locations across the country, including stadiums for both the Cleveland Browns and Indians.