Managing waste in high-volume, public places like restaurants or parks can be a daunting task. The bin gets full so guests try to push the waste down with their hands or employees have to drag dripping bags across the space multiple times a day to keep up with the rush. But one Brooklyn Park, Minn.-based front-of-house compactor company is looking to change the status quo.
“Despite sustainability and recycling popularity, post-consumer recycling or organics collection is minimal. Our technology can change all that,” says Jeff Tolke, CEO of Compaction Technologies Inc. “We can create a new ‘normal.’ In the next few years, I think people will look at conventional trash cans in restaurants the same way they look at smoking on airplanes. Smoking on airplanes used to be perfectly acceptable but society woke up and said ‘that’s disgusting’ or ‘no-more.’”
Compaction Technologies was founded in 2006. Its front-of-house compactor, called the “Original” ecotrash, uses a small electric motor and ball screw to drive the compactor mechanism. It cycles quickly (about 9 seconds) and creates maximum force at just the right time.
“Hydraulic drive systems are disadvantaged because they travel at a slow rate and their force is the same from start to finish,” says Tolke. “We considered using hydraulics but could never get comfortable with its limitations, and we didn’t want to be restricted like that.”
One of the benefits of the Compaction Technologies compactor is that it creates fast cycle times so guests do not have to wait between deposits. Another big benefit is that it runs very quietly so guests can sit near a unit and not be distracted or interrupted when it goes into a compaction cycle.
“Our customers … consistently tell us it improves their guest experience,” says Tolke. “Their guests hate dealing with full and overflowing trash cans, and our technology reduces, if not eliminates, that. They also tell us their employees love emptying the trash 80 to 90 percent less often with Original ecotrash.”
Scott Bolles, franchise owner of Dairy Queen in Minneapolis, says that he uses the compactor at his restaurant because he is always looking for anything that can improve efficiency.
“Compaction is a local company. As I said, I’m always looking to improve efficiency, so when I heard about their compactors, I knew it’d be a good fit,” he says.
Bolles says his team now only has to dump the trash once every day.
A franchised McDonald’s based in Chicago also utilizes the Original ecotrash compactor. It has reduced the number of times the waste has to be emptied.
“We used to be dumping the trash four to five times during a lunch hour, but now we only have to empty it once a day, even during high-volume times,” says Bruce Casperson, facilities supervisor for that McDonald’s.
He chose Compaction Technologies to focus on labor savings specifically.
“They [also] have an extremely quiet compactor, and there is never a mess with it because of the bin,” he says.
Tolke says his customers experience a major reduction in trash bag use and in trash pickups by waste trucks.
“While those are the primary benefits, our business model also helps the environment, too. Because we own the equipment, we can refurbish and redeploy it instead of scrapping it,” he says. “We have the ability to reuse the same frame and drive linkage but replace all electrical components and exterior pieces so they look and run like new.”
In the future, Compaction Technologies is looking into adding remote monitoring to the ecotrash compactor.
“I think there’s a huge opportunity for capturing and monitoring performance data. There are the obvious things like informing operators how full they are and when they need emptying, but I think there’s huge potential for more,” says Tolke. “If we can combine waste data with the front-end data in a quick service restaurant (QSR), I think there are applications that could improve efficiencies.”
Those applications include predictive models for on-demand trash hauling or ones that combine supply ordering, customer purchases, weather forecasts, social media and waste patterns to accurately forecast labor requirements.
Casperson can see the benefits of having remote monitoring at his QSR.
“I can see it being helpful when we are in the middle of our high-volume times. It would just be one less thing to keep an eye on,” he says.
Bolles was not as sure. “Personally, since we have the staff to monitor it, it wouldn’t be a huge benefit to us. I could definitely see the benefits for others,” he says.
Compaction Technologies is looking to monitor activities that impact operations—full level—and internal diagnostics to pre-empt service issues before they happen.
“We want to provide value-added information to our customers, not create information because we can. We’ll work with our customers to figure out the most relevant information for them and how we can provide it,” says Tolke.