Monthly Archives: November 2013

The 12 Steaks

steak

Imagine going to the supermarket and purchasing 12 large T-bone steaks, returning home and dumping those steaks right into the trash. Whether we are aware of this or not, the given situation occurs very frequently. Albeit we are not purchasing food and immediately throwing it away, we do spend a lot of money on goods that end up in the trash eventually.

The biggest perpetrator of this purchase-to-dump method is the food industry. At any point in the food’s lifecycle, the idea that it can be deemed trash is forever looming and once discarded or determined to be unfit is often never given another thought.

The problem is that there is very little attention given to the food once it is labeled as trash.  Food that is dumped into the trash is either defined as pre-consumer or post-consumer food waste. Pre-consumer waste includes trim waste, spoiled, over-produced over-ordered or incorrectly prepared food.   The largest portion of pre-consumer waste is a result of over-ordering as a result of an inefficient purchasing process.   On average, 4-10 percent of all purchased food finds its home in the trash before it even has the chance to reach a table. The lucky ones, who do make it to the table, however, often rejoin their friends later on in the process, in the form of post-consumer waste. Post –consumer waste is most often than not, customers who have not finished their meals which may mean the portion size is too large. If a customer opts for the ‘doggy bag’, the food on their plate ends up in – you guessed it – the trash in their homes.

This food waste also presents a financial quandary, as money is literally going into the garbage. In fact, all of this food waste is costing the food business $23 billion in profit – a number that could definitely make a difference in restaurants’ finances.

So how can restaurants reduce their waste?

Understanding where the food waste is coming from is the key to reducing the waste. By monitoring waste restaurants have the opportunity to reduce their pre-consumer waste flow quickly and efficiently.  With an improved purchasing process, preparing less food, properly training workers, and creating smaller portions, savings is achievable.

In order to prevent the waste you need to capture the data.  Without the data, those 12 steaks will never stand a chance.

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Decrease Your Footprint

GreenFootprint

Food disposal is an extremely important eco-issue everywhere. Not only must we make less waste but also, in an energy-efficient way, reuse/recycle the waste we create.  According to the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Americans throw away nearly half their food every year, waste worth roughly $165 billion annually.

All hospitals, supermarkets and dining halls should be looking for a way to decrease their waste footprints and should look to pilot an on-site digestion solution  to achieve that goal.

The Federal Government supports the digestion of organics because it protects public health, safety and natural resources. This method keeps organics out of landfills and turns a waste into a valuable product that is beneficial to businesses, residents, soil, air and water. When sent to landfills, organics are the leading cause of green house gas emissions from landfills and represent over 30% of the total solid waste stream in most states.

The environmental impact of food disposal is significant. BioHitech America values making a positive environmental impact and encourage others to do the same.

The Blame Has Shifted

drywell

Droughts have become an increasingly larger problem throughout the Southwest, than years before. Up until now, the blame was placed on global warming, increased consumption and decreased availability. Culpability is now being shifted to fracking.

While the reasons for fracking  make perfect sense and will help the US out of their dependency on foreign oil sources, the process itself is extremely water-intensive.  The high consumption rate has spelled trouble for towns throughout the Southwest.

A story out of Barnhart, Texas sums up the devastating effects of fracking.  Two years ago the town of Barnhart, Texas became the residence of large fracking companies, who began tapping into the city’s natural gas reserves. Shortly after they appeared, water began to vanish.

Residents in the town began noticing their own personal wells drying up after the frackers’ appearance, but they made no mind of it. Resident Beverly McGuire made note of her own well running dry, but simply ignored it and hooked up to the town’s central supply.

As opposed to complaining about their quickly decreasing water supply, the citizens of Barnhart simply adjusted their own lifestyles. Statewide water rationing became a norm for these people, forcing them to cut down on their daily consumption. This rationing not only killed trees and lawns, but it also has had devastating effects on the economic situation of Barnhart’s citizens. Ranchers who used to run 500 cattle and 8,000 goats had to dump most of their herds. No longer able to feed and water their herds, ranchers were forced to reduce their numbers. And while local businessmen and farmers were forced to downsize, the fracking and oil companies are taking as much water as their hearts desire.

At its worst, the citizens of Barnhart were forced to live without a single drop of water for five days. Fortunately, a local work crew was able to revive a local railway well and begin pumping water back in. Though functional for now, this solution is only temporary, and soon enough the town will be forced into another dry spell.

Barnhart is not the only town running dry. Communities all around the Southwest are preparing for the worst – and the worst is yet to come. Extreme measures are being taken to find water to sustain populations. San Angelo, Texas with a population of 100,000 had to dig an underground pipeline to retrieve water from a well more than 60 miles away.

Alone, droughts can be devastating. When paired with the process of fracking, it is merely impossible to predict what will happen next.

A Huge Profit

trashtocash
As we continue to generate staggering amounts of solid waste, companies like Waste Management profit by turning trash into cash. Trash collection and disposal is a huge source of cash flow, generating nearly $8.5 billion of annual revenue for Waste Management.

Another large source of revenue comes from owning and operating its own vast network of landfills.  Not only does owning the landfills save Waste Management money, it generates a lot of revenue from other providers utilizing its landfills.

The US disposes enough trash every day to fill 50,000 garbage trucks, with 18,000 pounds of trash in each.  The garbage needs to end up somewhere most likely at a Waste Management owned landfill.

The U.S.’s growing garbage problem is a hassle for government officials, but it’s an opportunity for investors to achieve growth amid an accelerating but vulnerable economic recovery.

The search for new methods of disposal is becoming more frantic among federal, state, and municipal leaders in the US because of the enormous variation in waste capacity among the states and the rapidly expanding population. New regulations from global organizations designed to boost environmentally friendly technologies are a disadvantage for global players such as Waste Management because technology they choose to pursue will likely divert waste from their landfills where they are poised to make the most money from.

Garbage will continue to be generated in vast quantities what Waste Management decides to do with it will be something to keep an eye on.  Will they choose to do what is best for the environment or what is best for their investors…to be continued.

The Unsustainable Cruise Ship Industry

cruiseship

In the days where eco-tourism is gaining fast ground, there are still ways to have a holiday that is highly unsustainable. One of these ways is to take a cruise. More than 230 cruise ships operate worldwide.  The cruise ship industry was called out as the Dinosaur of the Year by the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) which is based in Germany.

According to NABU estimates, a single cruise ship emits particle pollution that equals the amount released by five million cars driving the same distance. NABU also said that the cruise ship industry has made no effort to become more sustainable and they indiscriminately dump waste into the ocean.

The amount of food waste generated by a large cruise ship on a one week voyage is staggering. If a cruise ship has 5,000 people on board, it serves about 25,000 meals each day. The resultant food waste is then ground up and discharged as slurry into the ocean. The EPA reported that food waste that is discharged in this manner lowers oxygen and creates acid causing a nutrient imbalance in ocean waters posing a threat to fragile ecosystems and sea life.

All cruise ships depend on the very ocean that they are polluting for their business and many travel to protected areas with very sensitive ecosystems. In the late 1990s, the Department of Justice indicted three cruise companies for pollution. One of the cruise liners, Royal Caribbean, paid out almost $30.8 million and had to undergo a probationary period. Now however, the federal government has no authority over these ships and Royal Caribbean continues to be one of the worst polluters.

Regulation is needed when it comes to dumping waste as well as implementing on-board comprehensive recycling programs.  Equipping ships with advanced wastewater treatment systems is also imperative but can also be expensive.  Perhaps if the new technology costs were passed on to their customers, it may just be a cost equal to a can of Coke per passenger.

The cruise industry is not dying down anytime soon as it offers one of the most economical options for a holiday; however, for the environment, that is bad news. While many states have no discharge zones near shore, that’s not the case at sea. About the only thing international law prohibits is plastic being discarded into the oceans. Beyond three nautical miles, there are very, very few rules.