The pressure to divert food waste from landfills continues to build across the country. In some cases, outright bans of food waste are being enacted or discussed.
The first courses of action are reducing food waste through better supply chain management or directing it to food banks. That’s posing a challenge to municipal solid waste departments and haulers as they wrestle with the complexities of collecting food waste and either composting it or processing it into energy.
But there’s another solution in the mix. Several companies have developed onsite technology, including digesters, that can allow generators to deal with food waste onsite. The tools allow them to get a better sense of what they are throwing out and, ultimately, to help them better manage their supply chains and reduce the amount of waste they generate.
Here are just a handful of examples of some of the solutions in play.
- Redmond, Wash.-based WISErg has created the Harvester technology; a self-contained machine that liquefies large volumes of landfill-bound food scraps from grocers—including solids like bones and cherry pits—into ingredients for fertilizer.
- Portland, Ore.-based LeanPath provides tools to measure food waste on a consistent, daily basis leading to food waste prevention. It produces the LeanPath 360 System for high-volume operations like colleges, hospitals and hotels and the LeanPath Zap for restaurants, coffee shops and other small to mid-sized operations.
- Chestnut Ridge, N.Y.-based BioHiTech Global Inc. creates innovative data-driven solutions for the disposal of food waste, including through its Entsorga North America subsidiary. BioHitech produces the Eco-Safe Aerobic Digester. While Entsorga has its High Efficiency Biological Treatment (HEBioT) MBT system that transforms food waste, plastics and other carbon-based materials from the mixed municipal solid waste stream into an alternative fuel source.
“Food waste, with new age technology applied, can become an urban resource,” says Larry LeSueur, chairman and co-founder of WISErg Corp. “The nutrients grown in our food, can core to the food we eat, is still present in the waste and can be bio-mined back out as a great resource for our community to grow the next crop of food that we eat. Technology is now enabling us to relook, and rethink our urban waste as a resource stream. … However, we are just on the edge of understanding how we recover the true resource value from food waste.”
WISErg’s Harvester allows generators, such as grocers, to process their food waste as part of their business processes. It can be placed either inside stores or on loading docks. The food waste is processed within the unit into a holding tank. The tank stabilizes the materials, stopping the decomposition of the nutrients, which are bio-mined at a central WISErg facility.
“We are able to capture quantity, time, department, and causation of the material discarded. This allows for improvement in customer’s processes and inventory or facilities management,” says LeSueur.
Andrew Shakman, co-founder and CEO of LeanPath, says visibility into food waste streams is key to eliminating the unnecessary waste.
“With the advent of food waste management technology, we are seeing food waste smart meters helping to make the invisible, visible. Operators now have unprecedented visibility into their food waste streams, enabling them to make significant impacts in that area,” he says.
LeanPath’s cloud-based analytics tools interpret food waste data to help its customers prevent food waste. LeanPath has helped its users cut food waste by 50 percent or more and achieve a 2 percent to 6 percent reduction in food purchases, on average, says Shakman.
Sensor-based systems that are connected to the cloud, allows generators to make the jump from just measuring food waste to responding to what’s going on in real-time, he says.
For the future, LeanPath is exploring ways to streamline the system.
“We’re working on interfaces to allow for recording multiple wasted food items simultaneously in retail operations, floor scale-based systems to integrate measurement systems and waste bins into a single unit, and additional waste reporting functionality to bring more visibility to operators,” Shakman says.
BioHiTech’s digesters are similar to what WISErg produces.
It has worked with chains, such as Dunkin Donuts, to get digesters installed and help analyze how much waste the locations are generating.
Two New Jersey Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants installed BioHitech’s Eco-Safe Digester in 2015.
The digesters are onsite aerobic units that eliminate up to 2,400 pounds of food waste in a 24-hour period by converting it into nutrient-neutral water and transporting the water safely through standard sewer lines.
The digester then weighs each increment of waste during the digestion process and allows users to quantify its type and origin, simultaneously transmitting this real-time data to the BioHitech Cloud. The cloud then immediately sorts and organizes the data, providing business owners with the necessary information that can then have an immediate impact on labor, safety, efficiency and sustainability within their company.
Meanwhile, Entsorga is at work installing its first U.S. system in West Virginia.