Monthly Archives: November 2012

For Restaurants, Food Waste Is Seen As A Low Priority


An interesting story was broadcasted on npr (National Public Radio).  BioHitech America believes that waste disposal is a controllable expense that, when properly managed, will result in significant bottom line savings and numerous environmental benefits, however, change in business goals and focus needs to occur first.

Written By  Eliza Barclay, November 27, 2012

A row of restaurants in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C., looks tantalizing — there’s Vietnamese, Italian, New American.

But if you walk around to the alley at the back of this row you might gag.
Dumpsters packed with trash are lined up, and they get emptied only twice a week. Which means a lot of food sits here, filling the block with a deep, rank odor.

Some of the dumpsters aren’t properly sealed, so grease and putrid juices are pooling beneath them. They may attract pigeons, rats, cockroaches, ants or flies, says Robert Corrigan, who runs the New York Rodent Control Academy. The academy trains restaurant workers on how to keep pests away. He says dumpsters filled with restaurant garbage are one of the main reasons pests are multiplying across the country.

“Even a half a lemon that drops off a dumpster and rolls underneath a stairwell — tiny flies will lay hundreds of thousands of eggs on that half a lemon,” says Corrigan.

Even when the dumpsters are emptied, the problem of food waste is just moved somewhere else. Dump trucks transport thousands of tons of food waste every day to landfills. That’s where food waste becomes Jean Schwab’s problem.

“Food waste is huge,” says Schwab, a senior analyst in the waste division at the Environmental Protection Agency. “Food waste is now the No. 1 material that goes into landfills and incinerators.”

Schwab says food waste from restaurants makes up 15 percent of all the food that ends up in landfills. And all that food doesn’t just take up space and attract pests — it’s also changing the climate.

“Because it rots so fast, basically it starts to generate methane really quickly,” says Schwab.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And reducing methane emissions from sources like landfills is one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s biggest priorities in the fight against climate change.

But in spite of the fact that as much as 10 percent of the food a restaurant buys ends up in landfills, hardly anyone in the restaurant industry gives it a second thought.

“It’s just another thing we’re used to as a restaurant professional … the amount of garbage that’s thrown out on a nightly basis,” says Cruz Goler, head chef at Lupa, an Italian restaurant owned by Mario Batali in New York City. “It can be a little staggering, I guess, but that’s just what happens.”

Back in Cleveland Park, Logan Cox, executive chef of Ripple restaurant, says chefs obsess over the quality of their vegetables and their technique. They want to make sure everything looks and tastes just right. But food waste comes in low on the long list of priorities.

“I’ve never taken the time to weigh or measure how much we do throw away,” says Cox.

According to Jonathan Bloom, who wrote a book last year called American Wasteland, consumers are part of the problem, too. “There’s about a half-pound of food waste created per meal served,” says Bloom. “That’s taking into account both back- and front-of-the-house waste. So restaurants and the customers are both joining forces to waste a whole lot of food.” (Listen to a recent interview with him on Science Friday.)

About three cents of every dollar consumers spend on food away from home ends up in the trash. And that doesn’t even include the food left on your plate or the slimy lettuce forgotten in the fridge.

Chris Moyer of the National Restaurant Association says getting restaurants to focus on food waste is a big challenge. Food scraps, of course, are inevitable, but a lot of food waste is still edible.

The hardest part for many restaurants may just be getting the workers to become aware of how much edible food they waste every day. A few years ago, when Moyer was managing a big chain restaurant, he wanted to show his cooks there were plenty of opportunities to reduce waste. So he took away the garbage can.

“You’d be surprised, once you take away the garbage cans, if people have to ask permission to throw something away how little you throw away,” says Moyer. “It was really quite amazing.”

But Moyer says getting the whole industry to take on food waste is going to take a lot of training and education — that’s what the NRA is trying to do with its ConServe program. And as we’ve reported, Unilever’s food division now has a program called United Against Waste.

But habits are harder to change than the menu.

“The hardest part about doing anything to benefit the planet, benefit your bottom line is behavioral change,” says Moyer. “Because that’s really what we’re talking about — changing mindsets, changing behaviors.”

Is The Journey Worth the Ride?


I often wonder if the anaerobic digesters located at wastewater treatment facilities really use the food waste once it arrives.  The Eco-Safe Digester does a great job of digesting a complex mix of food waste on-site for supermarkets, hotels, etc, dumping the liquid grey water into the municipal sewer pipes eventually ending up at a waste water treatment facility.  But is the facility happy to have the grey water?

The answer is yes.  Sending digested food waste to anaerobic digesters located at a wastewater treatment facilities delivers multiple benefits:

–      Increased energy production reduces energy purchases

–      Increased efficiency creates a more effective treatment of the waste and sludge

–      Increased revenue from increased fertilizer production

–      Reduced organic materials directed to landfills delivers a whole list of environmental benefits which includes but are not limited to lowering emissions from less truck traffic, reducing groundwater and soil contamination at the landfills and reducing harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.

It sounds like the journey IS worth the ride.

LCA of The Eco-Safe Digester


Have you ever wondered what happens to the discharge from the Eco-Safe Digester?

The Answer:  100% is RECYCLED

Using the Eco-Safe Digester to keep food waste out of landfills has many environmental benefits:

  • Recycles Food Waste into a Reusable Resource
  • Avoids Long Distance Hauling to Distant Landfills
  • Lowers Emissions from Less Truck Traffic and Land-filling
  • Extends the Lifespan of the County’s Disposal Facilities
  • Reduces Potential for Groundwater and Soil Contimination at Landfills
  • Reduces Harmful Greenhouse Gases that Contribute to Global Climate Change

Waste Industry Digs Out After Sandy


Nov. 6, 2012 8:54am Allan Gerlat | Waste Age

In the early days after Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast, New York City and northern New Jersey struggle to get back to normal, and the waste industry is managing its own variety of challenges to keep up service.

The storm struck Oct. 29, and the day after the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) was getting calls that haulers lost trucks and yards were flooded, says David Biderman, general counsel & director, safety for the NSWMA. New York City’s Department of Sanitation and Business Integrity Commission were shut down in the first week, and the Department of Transportation (DOT) was flooded. One of the largest disposal facilities in the area, Morristown, N.J.-based Covanta Holding Corp’s waste-to-energy operation in Newark, N.J., still is closed from the storm a week later.

And waste officials were concerned about certain regulatory requirements “that you can’t comply with when there’s no electricity and no Internet.” NSWMA worked with government officials to cut through some red tape to suspend certain regulatory requirements.

“Some have been helpful, understanding that requiring a permit to put a container down on the street when the online system wasn’t working and the DOT own office itself was literally underwater made no sense, so they’ve suspended that,” Biderman says.

But not all regulatory issues had been resolved so easily. There have been delays in collections with the challenges of traffic, gasoline and transfer station capacity “that do pose some regulatory concerns, and we’re working with city officials to try to address them.”

The association also got the city to temporarily suspend transfer station capacity limits in the city – one of the biggest waste challenges the city faced. “At this point in time the lack of disposal capacity in the city is a bottleneck for promptly removing C&D (construction and demolition) debris,” he says. Many of the transfer stations are full and there appeared to be a shortage of trailers to remove all the waste that was generated quickly when the storm hit. “That has the potential to slow down the cleanup of the city.”

The problem is intensified in New York City, which is so densely populated. Residents and workers “generate a tremendous amount of material in a very small geographical area,” Biderman says. “There’s a limited number of transfer stations.”

And more trucks at transfer stations mean longer lines and waits. It could also make it more difficult for smaller haulers to have a site to dump their loads. Biderman was hopeful the transfer station bottleneck would resolve itself in a couple of days.

These remain the biggest challenges: Collecting the material and then disposing of it. A component of the latter point is transferring the material out of New York City, by rail or by truck. Biderman says he had not yet heard any figures on how much waste was generated by the storm.

There were initial problems with some operations having sufficient fuel, but that seemed to have been addressed quickly, Biderman says. Some gas stations remain closed, which has caused problems for workers driving to work.

It will take a little while for the region to get back to business as usual. “It’s a logistical challenge to mange all of this waste material in timely and environmentally safe fashion,” Biderman says. “All portions of the industry are working feverishly to do that.”