PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Temple University has diverted nearly 150,000 pounds of food waste from local landfills after installing aerobic digesters from a New Jersey company, officials said.
Gold Medal Environmental is a Sewell, Gloucester County based environmental services company. They work with BioHiTech Global to create technology-based solutions for hospitals, hotels, universities, and other facilities to keep food waste out of landfills.According to GME, it is estimated that the United States will reach landfill capacity by the year 2036.
Speaking with 6abc through e-mail, Michael Schmidt, GME’s Executive Vice President, Strategic Growth & Development, said he believes the concern over landfill capacity dates back many decades, but now many more people are really taking note.
“I can recall as far as back over 30 years ago having recycling drives in elementary school to collect paper and plastic bottles to ‘Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.’ Much of these efforts have helped spur improved recycling technologies and sustainable manufacturing processes, reducing what was going into landfills,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said the recent international crisis, led by China’s initiative to clean up its environment, has elevated the concern of landfill capacity to the front of the news, “which is resulting in many of us to sit up and start really thinking about this.”
He said the landfill capacity concern is “within our lifetime” which makes the situation real.
“Thirty years ago, the problem was 50 years away, 50 years is a long time and much of us believed that surely by that time, someone would have a solution,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said as the country’s population grows, communities don’t want to see more landfills in their backyard; they also don’t want to see the existing landfills grow.
“They want to see a better solution, which is why much of the current landfills today are facing end of life issues. Let’s be clear, landfills serve a purpose and will never go away. However, we need to find ways to preserve the capacity in these landfills now,” Schmidt said.
When Temple University reached out to Gold Medal it was for traditional waste collection services. But Schmidt said GME learned about Temple’s need for a more sustainable way to deposit food waste. So, they introduced the university to their food waste digesters.
“With our on-site food waste digesters, our customers can divert food waste, which tends to be the heaviest waste stream due to its high-water content, from the garbage by disposing of the waste directly into the digester,” Schmidt said.
Here’s how it works:
Schmidt explained the food waste is broken down through the use of aerobic digestion (heat, water, oxygen, and natural microbes) into an organic liquid that is disposed naturally down a customer’s drain.
“The food waste stays out of the customer’s waste stream, reducing the weight, the frequency of pickups, and the client’s trash bill, all while helping to reduce the number of trucks on the road, further reducing the reliance on diesel fuel and greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the reduced truck traffic,” Schmidt said.
According to GME, since the installation of digesters at three different kitchens on Temple’s campus in April 2018, the university has diverted 74.5 tons of food waste from local landfills or incinerators. It has also eliminated 64 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the environment which equates to taking 13 passenger cars off the road for one year.
“Our University is committed to environmental responsibility and with Gold Medal’s unique sustainable services we can divert a substantial amount of waste from landfills and reduce our overall disposal costs at the same time,” John Johnson, AVP Service Operations of Temple University, stated at the time of the installation.
In May 2010, Temple University adopted its Climate Action Plan to address the role of recycling and waste minimization as part of the institution’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.
According to Temple’s 2018 Recycling and Trash Report, “though the student enrollment increased by 1.6% between 2017 and 2018, trash tonnage has remained relatively steady.”
Gold Medal also provides Temple data – including what type of food was disposed, how much weight was processed by the digester, what day, time, and area of the kitchen the food waste was from – to help the university manage their food waste and make future buying decision.
“BioHiTech’s data analytics (will) help make us smarter about what we are throwing away so that we can ultimately generate less waste which is good for the environment as well as our bottom line,” Johnson said.