While recycling plastics and paper can help offset some of your bulk trash costs, many are looking for ways to dispose of food waste. In fact, many jurisdictions are already taking steps towards banning or restricting usual food waste techniques, such as disposal units and standalone pulpers. Cue: Dehydrators and Bio-digesters.
Food waste is deposited in a dehydrator, wherein heat and churning are used conjunctively to remove anywhere between 80-90% of water weight. The result: A dry, odorless shell of its former self - a biomass ‘suitable for use as compost feedstock, and—after testing—in some instances may be used directly as a soil amendment,’ according to a study by Northeastern University for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The process as a whole runs 12-18 hours, but pulping, shredding, or grinding food waste will require less time to dehydrate. While you still need to dispose of the end result, which is similar to sawdust, the product is a tenth of the weight and mass of the original waste.
This ‘wet’ version of food waste disposal is similar to composting with the addition of accelerants such as microbes or enzymes, speeding up the process of decomposition. The result is a liquefied and disintegrated food waste product that easily passes through filters and into the sewer systems. Rather than working on a batch-type basis (like a dehydrator), bio-digesters work constantly. While there is no waste left after processing, the costs are funneled through use of water as well as maintenance and replenishment of enzymes or nutrient material.
So which one is right for your restaurant?
Firstly, analyzing whether or not either option is a good choice for you boils down to cost. Brian Ward of BioHitech America claims that, ‘ballpark costs are $22,000-$50,000 and higher,’ and that, ‘a wet bio-digester will have a lower capital cost than a dehydrator.’ While restaurants will eventually make up the cost of the initial investment, the timeframe for the payback can vary widely depending on the size of your restaurant and amount of food waste it creates. While most users of both dehydrators and bio-digesters are usually larger operations (think: colleges, hotels, etc.), a standard mid-size restaurant could see a payback of around 24 months!
If you’re the restaurant isn’t quite ready to take the plunge by investing in a dehydrator or bio-digester, now is a great time to start planning for one! With regulations trending towards the more environmentally-friendly methods of food waste disposal, it’s simply a matter of time before your restaurant starts feeling the push. Call me today to get your waste disposal methods revamped so that they’re working FOR your kitchen!
E Friedman Associates