Category Archives: Technology and the Environment

Inefficient Waste Disposal

waste disposal

These days we are faced with two competing imperatives – the need to reduce the volume of food wasted every day and the need to stop the depletion of natural resources as result of inefficient waste disposal. Both problems produce their fair share of environmental, social, and financial issues that have yet to be solved. Big Data analytics tied to accurate quantification of solid waste may be the solution for countering food waste and transforming the clumsy energy-laden logistics of waste management.

The historically growing waste industry generates nearly $55 Billion in annual revenue, of which, approximately $16 Billion is derived from the transportation and disposal of the organic fraction of waste. The waste industry has long relied on antiquated, inefficient, and complicated technology strategies such as landfilling and composting as solutions.

Delivering a scalable and low-cost solution that offers share holder value alongside positive environmental results is easy if you consider BioHitech America’s unique solution to food waste which combines green technology with the power of big data to offer transparency, savings, and a safer and sustainable future.

The company’s Eco-Safe Digester Solution, an on-site aerobic digester, eliminates up to 2,400 pounds of food waste in a 24-hour period and is designed to digest a wide range of food types such as fruit, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish an dairy leaving nothing to store or transport. The Eco-Safe Digester then converts food waste into nutrient-neutral water and transports the water safely through standard sewer lines. Managing food waste on-site not only diverts significant volumes of waste from trucks and landfills but also has the ability to increase the awareness of the volumes wasted in order to prevent waste altogether.

What makes the solution superior to other on-site waste removal devices is that each unit is equipped with an on board scale that weighs food waste each time it is added, determining where, when, and what food waste is being disposed. The BioHitech Cloud, a technology platform hosted by Amazon, measures key metrics to optimize the food waste disposal process.

These metrics are providing the industry with an unprecedented level of transparency that not only helps to reduce the amount of waste generated, but improves company-wide efficiency and profitability.

The uniform reporting and comparative analytics provides an accurate audit trail to support environmental directives that tracks savings and utilization while highlighting successes and uncovering anomalies. Organizing and preparing reports is easy and can be designed for single or multiple locations, by geographical areas, by management structure or by season. Reports are also easy to access and can be done from several devices including computers, tablets, and smartphones.

BioHitech America currently provides its innovative solution to numerous high volume generators in various industries in nearly 300 locations across the globe.

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Supermarkets are significant contributors to the 34 million tons of food wasted each year.

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The disposal of food waste is a complicated and costly process. In addition, with cities and states passing legislation to restrict the amount of food waste being sent to landfills, facilities subject to these regulations need to quickly act on a solution that is cost-effective, environmentally-friendly and compliant.

In an effort to reduce waste sent to landfills and to limit the amount of harmful methane gasses emitted, many people turn to composting as an alternative. However, this is not the most viable solution for a few key reasons. Composting carries many challenges including rising costs, carbon emissions while transporting waste, on-site storage logistics, labor and the inability to accurately measure waste.

There are two alternative food waste diversion technologies that are becoming popular in the marketplace, aerobic and anaerobic digesters. These solutions help to eliminate the negative environmental factors and are smart investments for companies that produce large amounts of food waste.

Aerobic digesters have been developed to eliminate food waste on-site at its point of generation. They accelerate the natural decomposition of food waste converting it to nutrient-neutral water that is transported safely through standard sewer lines. Many aerobic digesters run using a continual process, enabling waste to be added as needed with nothing left to haul away. This is currently the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly option in the marketplace.

What makes aerobic digesters a more efficient alternative is that they minimize the logistical effort needed to dispose of the waste. The next step is to incorporate real-time quantification and transparency of food waste volumes. For example, some on-site aerobic digesters provide users the ability to determine where and when waste is produced rather than relying on assumptions. Data is crucial in reducing food waste and managing efficient operations.

Other parts of the world are capitalizing on the positive impact of anaerobic digesters which break down waste and convert it into an energy rich biogas. A supermarket chain in the United Kingdom is using its food waste to cut off completely from the grid powering the supermarket’s lighting and refrigerators without the need for fossil fuels.

While anaerobic digestion is a forward thinking option, it is scarce in the United States because it is an expensive undertaking. However, I do foresee this becoming more widespread as the U.S. has a strong desire to achieve energy independence. Food waste companies need to continue to evolve their technology in order be able to provide customers with an effective means of generating anaerobic digester feedstock without losing the on-site nature and data analytics of aerobic digesters. We are currently piloting projects with leading anaerobic digestion companies to offer consumers a viable food waste management program that will provide the benefits of both aerobic and anaerobic digestion.

Reduce Food Waste

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Following the People’s Climate March and Climate Week we should be thinking about what we can do to reduce our impact on the environment. One of these solutions is to reduce food waste.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, but another gas – methane – is far more potent and has an intimate relationship with your dinner plate. Methane is 20 times stronger than carbon dioxide and 18 percent of its emission in the US comes from food and other organic material decomposing in landfills.

In a food waste report from the National Resources Defense Council, Dana Gunders estimates that 40% of food goes uneaten in the US. Less wasted food will cut landfill emissions, save you money on buying, preparing and discarding less food, help conserve energy and resources that go into producing food in the first place and help fight climate change.

Recognizing the benefits from reducing food waste and diverting food from landfills, some states have established aggressive initiatives, and in some cases mandates, that will cause big wasters to find a solution for their food waste, one that does not include landfill. As similar mandates start springing up across the country because of limited landfill capacity or emission reduction goals only a few solutions exist that have proven to be cost-effective and scalable.

BioHitech America identified this problem more than 8 year ago and has since evolved their Eco-Safe Digester  to be more than just an on-site aerobic digester. It has smart technology on board that transmits data about what is being wasted in order to make sure it is not wasted a second time.

Reducing food waste is a simple solution to reducing greenhouse gasses and reducing your carbon footprint.

Navigating the Complexities of Food Waste

food waste in compost

As food waste represents more than 30 percent of the material disposed of in landfills today, haulers face increased demands for viable diversion options from consumers and the government, who are attempting to achieve sustainability and zero waste goals.

The diversion of food waste is a complex issue that has historically involved extensive logistics resulting in significant costs to waste haulers and in turn to their customers, the generators of food waste. The current disposal infrastructure in the U.S. typically requires the collection and transportation of food waste in traditional vehicles, resulting in significant costs being passed on to the generators as well as the unnecessary consumption of fossil fuels and associated harmful emissions. When analyzed correctly, these factors often negate the benefit of the diversion of the waste itself. As state and local regulatory agencies continue to implement bans on food waste in landfills, the lack of viable disposal options in proximity to the source of the waste will prove to be a barrier to ultimately achieve these goals. Fortunately, there are new technologies that provide the resources and tools necessary to offer consumers a means of compliance while presenting new opportunities in an industry that is in need of a solution.

In order for the consumer to comply with new regulations in a cost-effective manor, it is necessary to identify a solution that does not rely on traditional vehicles and manpower to collect and transport waste long distances to compost facilities or anaerobic digesters. In addition to the obvious economic and environmental challenges associated with traditional collection and disposal, the consumer is forced to sacrifice valuable kitchen or retail space for the on-site storage of food waste waiting to be collected, as well as the inability to quantify the results of their efforts. It is also virtually impossible to accurately measure each generator’s waste and provide the reporting that is needed to track diversion efforts and carbon reductions.

Real data is a key component to not only quantifying our diversion efforts, but more importantly to provide generators with the information needed to get to the root of the problem. It is important to examine not just how we dispose of this waste, but how much of it we actually create.

Over the past few years, several new technologies have emerged in the U.S. that make the disposal of food waste much less demanding, including on-site options, such as our Eco-Safe Aerobic Digester. Aerobic digesters accelerate the natural decomposition of food waste and convert it to nutrient-neutral water that is transported safely through standard sewer lines without any additional handling required. Some of these units run using a continual process, enabling waste to be added as needed with no chemicals used and no airborne contaminants present. The most logical, cost effective solution to this growing issue is to treat food waste at its point of generation. This would eliminate the need for increased logistics and provide the most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly option in the marketplace today.

Digesters tend to work similarly to a human stomach. They are designed to process a wide range of food waste types, such as fruit, vegetables, cooked and uncooked meat and poultry, fish, dairy and bakery items. BioHitech America’s on-site aerobic digester can eliminate up to one ton of food waste in a 24-hour period.

In addition to being an effective tool used to decompose food waste, the Eco-Safe Digester serves as a powerful management tool, providing key metrics to users that can help indicate inefficiencies within an organization or quantify the benefits of reduced disposal and corresponding “truck rolls.” The digester is equipped with a scale that weighs food waste each time it is added to the unit, clearly determining where, when and what food waste is disposed of. Since the digester provides real data rather than relying on assumptions, management can identify opportunities for improvement in the process.

The BioHitech Cloud, a reliable, manageable and secure reporting platform for data that can be accessed on many types of devices, measures key metrics to optimize the waste disposal process. The reporting provides an accurate audit trail to support environmental directives that tracks savings, compares utilization, highlights successes and uncovers anomalies. Organizing and preparing reports is easy and can be designed for single or multiple locations, by geographical areas, by management structure or by season. Reports are also easy to access and can be created from several devices, including computers, tablets and smartphones.

Quantifying food waste data in real-time is paramount for industries to provide accurate, concise and useful analytics in order to facilitate zero-waste behavior within an organization. This information, along with a heightened consciousness about the alternatives to dumping food waste in landfills, will drive tremendous opportunities. According to the EPA, it is estimated that if we were to prevent food waste from either being created or disposed, it would be similar to removing a quarter of all cars in America from the road.

The increasing emphasis on food waste diversion will also continue to support the development of other disposal methods, such as anaerobic digestion, a growing means of disposal in the U.S. As in many parts of Europe, the U.S. will continue to strive to utilize organic waste as feedstock for energy production. One of the U.S.’s largest generators of food waste, Walt Disney World, has recently announced a switch from composting to using anaerobic digestion to not only remove its food waste but to help power the operation of its parks and resorts.

Anaerobic digesters can be capital intense and therefore will rely on significant tip fees to help subsidize the cost of construction and operation. While this can present a challenge in obtaining feedstock, it is likely that the larger obstacle will be the inability to site facilities within close proximity to large volumes of feedstock, leading to significant costs to collect and transport waste to its final destination. These costs along with the necessary tip fees imposed for disposal will be challenging to developers of these types of facilities and burdensome on the consumer.

In most cases, anaerobic digesters require food waste to be in some form of liquid or slurry, adding additional costs to support the process. At BioHitech America, we continue to evolve our technology to provide our customers with an effective means of generating anaerobic digestion feedstock without losing the on-site nature and data analytics of aerobic digesters. By pre-processing the waste at the point of generation, we are able to significantly reduce the volume of waste needing to be transported and providing the ability to perform said transportation with more efficient vehicles than traditional waste collection trucks. BioHitech has partnered with leading anaerobic digestion companies, including CRMC Dartmouth Bioenergy, an anaerobic digestion facility located in New Bedford, Massachusetts, to pilot its technology as a pre-processing unit for CRMC’s recently constructed facility. This facility accepts commercial/industrial food wastes, organic sludges, FOG or other liquid or slurried non-hazardous organics. The Bioenergy Facility is the first of its kind to be sited at an operating Massachusetts landfill and the first developed in the state to produce biogas for use in a pre-existing landfill gas-to-energy facility.

As the evolution of the food waste industry progresses, on site solutions such as the Eco-Safe Digester and other similar products will become increasingly relevant to its success and paramount to other disposal methods such as anaerobic digestion and future technologies. Being more progressive and adopting new means of food waste disposal is no longer just a social responsibility; sustainable alternatives are becoming a mandatory requirement.

What is the Biggest Cost Associated with Waste Disposal?

source reduction

The number one cost of waste disposal is buying the goods that eventually end up in your waste stream.

For example, take an 8-inch, round head of lettuce. If that head of lettuce wilted before you could sell it or use it and you threw it in the garbage whole, the volume that the head of lettuce would displace in the trash would be about 268 cubic inches. If you were paying the equivalent of $8 per cubic yard for waste disposal, the relative cost impact would be less than 5 cents. However, that same head of lettuce might have cost $1.50 to purchase originally, or 30 times the cost of disposal!

What a waste. $1.55 spent on each head of lettuce from the time it is purchased till the time it is thrown out. If you had a piece of technology that tracked your volume of waste and told you how to avoid the purchase of those items, well it would seem that the simplest and cheapest method for savings could therefore come from source reduction, not from switching methods of disposal.

Source reduction prevents the purchase and production of waste and is a tremendously beneficial method of sustainable waste management. Environmentally, source reduction drastically lowers the amount of materials, labor and energy used for creating, storing, and selling products. Economically, source reduction cuts back on the amount of waste that is thrown away, thus lowering waste disposal costs.

However, in order to reduce the food waste at the source, you must know what is wasted. Utilizing a technology solution like the Eco-Safe Digester allows you to measure, track, and reduce what is wasted in addition to removing the waste from landfills. A solution that moves you towards a more sustainable food waste management process helps to make disposal costs a thing of the past.

While disposing of waste into landfills continues to be the most utilized method of food waste management in the United States, source reduction has proven to be more sustainable and economical. If restaurants and supermarkets could avoid creating waste by focusing on their purchasing and prep practices, the wins would be far greater than managing the waste on the back end.

Sewage Treatment Facilities to Turn Food Waste into a Resource

new energy

Months ago, waste trucks in Los Angeles County, California started collecting food scraps from restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, and food processing plants, grinding them into a slurry and dropping off the liquid to a wastewater treatment plant, where it is mixed in with sewage and processed in an anaerobic digester.

What was the end result? Biogas, that can be burned as fuel.

This plant is hardly the first sewage treatment plant to take in food waste, and it certainly won’t be the last. Efforts to recycle food waste are growing nationwide, and many are doing it the traditional way, by collecting and composting food scraps. But there is increasing interest in sending food waste, particularly from commercial sources, to facilities that use anaerobic digesters to convert the food into biogas in place of composting.

About 15 wastewater treatment facilities in the U.S. have started taking in food waste to co-digest with sewage in tanks or large digester eggs — a small number, but that’s up from one or two about a decade ago, according to the American Biogas Council. Following the lead of Europe, more U.S. cities are trying new ways to harvest energy from food that otherwise would have rotted in landfills and emitted methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

New York City, as part of an ongoing pilot program, sent tons of food waste from Brooklyn and Staten Island to the Newtown Creek wastewater treatment plant in Brooklyn and processed it in an anaerobic digester to produce biogas for the facility. They are hopeful the project will continue in order to keep the material as close to NYC as possible because their only other alternative is to turn it into traditional compost at their facility, more than 216 miles away round trip. Turns out, renewable energy provides more value than composting for the city.

Hopefully, NYC will be  successful in turning the pilot program into an expansion project because Newton Creek couldn’t possibly handle the volume of food waste New Yorkers produce in a day, especially with the commercial food waste ban to being in early 2015.

According to the American Biogas Council, about 860 sewage treatment plants in the U.S. already produce biogas using anaerobic digestion, in which bacteria break down matter in an oxygen-free environment and produce biogas that powers the facilities.  Adding food waste to the mix is the tricky part.

Experts agree that anaerobic digestion is growing quickly, but the cost of building an anaerobic digestion system ranges widely, depending on the size of the plant, the feedstock, types of end products produced, and other variables. It’s not cheap. The anaerobic digesting process is also complex as the food waste brought in must be processed to remove contaminants then converted into a pumpable slurry for injection into the digesters.

On-site aerobic digesters, like the Eco-Safe Digester, that could tank the pre-sorted, pre-digested food waste as a means of generating ready-to-use AD feedstock for the 860 sewage treatment plants would certainly help to transform something complex into something quite simple.

The wave of innovation in food waste recycling is picking up speed globally. Food waste is something we should all try to manage as a resource.

Revolutionize Your Waste Service

recycle food waste

From a business perspective, there is an enormous opportunity to save money with a proper organics management process.   Large volumes of food waste are disposed of each day, which is why when organics are managed and then analyzed great opportunities abound.

Governments are finally recognizing that in order to achieve success with their ambitious recycling goals those goals must include organics.

States like Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island, and cities like New York City are going about it the right way, by focusing more on the commercial end where the most tonnage is.

There will be challenges that will need to be overcome. The marketplace for the landfill-diverted waste is immature, recovery sites are not widespread and in some cases virtually non-existent. Government laws and regulations are inconsistent, and collection, processing and marketing aren’t as well thought out as they should be.

For those states and cities forging forward alternate disposal methods need to be sought out. The Eco-Safe Digester is a reliable and easy-to-operate aerobic digester that eliminates food waste on-site. It requires no third party to dispose of the food waste, requires no on-road transportation, and more importantly is the only diversion solution that delivers information about what is wasted in order to prevent it altogether.

While there is not one solution that will work for everyone, companies should be shopping around for an end-to-end solution that works best for them. In the meantime infrastructure development will likely start picking up speed because of the effects of the recent government policy decisions.