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Handling Organic Food Waste Disposal the Sustainable Way

TRAVELER’S REST, SC—It’s an urgent environmental problem: Organic food waste disposal and what to do with it. The hotel industry has made great strides in adopting greener practices, ranging from water conservation to sustainability initiatives, in an effort to be stewards of the environment. Now, many cities and states are requiring hotels to take it a step further by recycling its food waste and separating it from other trash.

The statistics on food waste are staggering. About 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Adding insult to injury, wasted food is dumped into landfills, which are among the biggest producers of methane gas and, in turn, can negatively impact climate change. Something has to change.

Composting is no longer just for gardeners and tree-huggers, and its implementation at hotels could prove to be a viable waste-management alternative for the hospitality industry. Jim Slanina created EnviroPure, a self-contained, on-site disposal system that converts food waste into sewer-safe gray water in 24 hours, in response to the need for a solution that would help hotel operators stay compliant and keep the costs and workflow in check. Clients include several major hotel chains such as Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International, Hyatt, Omni Hotels & Resorts, Destination Hotels and Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

“The first several years of operation were strictly focused on research and development in designing an all-natural solution to on-site organic waste treatment. The technology we provide allows the customer to eliminate the organic waste stream on-site. Our research told us that landfills would be become scarce in the future. While other types of materials such as plastics and cardboard were being diverted through recycling programs, no one was addressing organics,” said Slanina, president of EnviroPure Systems based here.

“Most studies will tell you that a very small percentage of organic waste is being diverted from the landfills. I think it’s starting to get better, but has a long way to go. We sought to design an environmentally friendly, easy-to-use, economic solution that allowed the customer to eliminate waste where it’s created. It eliminates not only landfilling but also trucks needed to move that waste from the customer to the landfill, which provides a significant reduction in CO2 emissions as well,” Slanina continued.

In terms of return on investment, Slanina noted that customers who chose to purchase the EnviroPure system typically see a return within 20 to 26 months, depending on geographic location and waste removal rates.

“It’s not uncommon for a large hotel in New York City to have a waste bill over $75,000 per year. We also provide leasing so, in many cases, we can install this technology on-site for less money per month than the location is paying to have the organics removed by the waste hauler,” Slanina said.

The EnviroPure system is installed at the property, either inside, in the kitchen area, or outside, on the dock. It’s simple to operate: A hotel worker loads the organic waste into a feed station, presses a button and then walks away. The process is fully automated and needs no intervention from the operator, according to Slanina.

“Behind the scenes through a biological and mechanical process, the organic waste is being broken down while the water content of the food is being treated. We like to say it’s like your stomach and a wastewater mini-treatment process wrapped up into one,” he said. “In 24 hours or less, after the treatment is a clean and reusable gray water.  There are no solids left and the gray water can be put down the drain or used for landscaping. This can save hotels labor and provide savings on the waste-hauling expense.”

The amount of footprint needed to set up an EnviroPure system can vary as they are sized depending on the organic waste that is generated in 24 hours. Standard units are designed to fit through the average-sized doorway and they manufacture large, custom systems that can be the size of a large truck, noted Slanina.

“We allow the end user to have remote dump stations, if needed, so the cabinet that contains the vessel can be located in a different part of the facility. This provides the ability to have a small dump station in the kitchen and the vessel cabinet in the basement,” he said. “We manufacture a variety of sizes with the smallest being a 300-pound-per-day unit, which would be 34-in. wide x 72-in. long x 80-in. high. The dump stations can be as small as a sink or a table type that is 24-in. x 60-in. We offer lots of feed-station options.”

The sustainability factor is paramount for Slanina, who believes it’s mission critical to find solutions to protect the environment by reducing the impact of day-to-day hotel operations.

“With the organic waste removal process being such a large problem in the world—whether it’s creating methane gas while decomposing in landfills or the trucks emissions being put into the air—we thought it was important to improve a process that solves this problem in an environmentally friendly way,” he said. “We are continuing to work on ways to reuse the water contained in food for other non-potable processes. With water being a precious commodity in some areas of the U.S., we offer a way to give the water we extracted from the food and treated back to the facility to reuse in a meaningful way.” 

—Corris Little

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