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NYS FOOD SYSTEM SUSTAINABILITY CLEARINGHOUSE

On-site Food Waste Management

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Managing food waste for your business doesn’t always mean sending it off-site to be processed. There are options available for both processing and pre-processing food waste on-site, either of which may be the right choice depending on the situation. There are a number of factors to consider when making this decision, and it is important to understand your business's needs and the available options so that you can make an informed decision about whether on-site processing/pre-processing is the right option for you. Read on to learn about what types of on-site options are available, the pros and cons of on-site processing, and things to consider before making the investment to purchase one of these systems.

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PROS

  • May reduce or eliminate hauling fees. Processing food waste on site can save money in hauling fees due to volume reductions or complete on-site treatment respectively.

  • Can provide a useful byproduct (soil amendment or fertilizer product) that could be used on-site

  • Can operate in a rural area, where food waste hauling may not be a cost effective option.

  • May reduce concerns associated with odors

  • May allow a business to benefit directly from the output material (e.g. producing compost on-site that can be used on the grounds of the facility)

  • Keeps food waste material closer to the point of generation than traditional hauling.

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CONS

  • Requires capital expense and ongoing maintenance (some vendors may offer leasing/renting options)

  • Business becomes responsible for managing the output material

  • Staff must be capable and trained in using the equipment

  • Costs associated with on-site systems include an initial investment in technology, ongoing equipment maintenance and operation costs, and labor costs of running and maintaining the equipment

  • Requires space to house the unit (amount of required space ranges drastically)

  • Adds an operation to the business. If there is an operational issue it is up to the business to problem solve

  • Depending on the size of your operation, you may need to obtain a permit

 Before commiting to an on-site system, there are some important questions to ask yourself or your business. Use the following questions and considerations as a starting point to gauge whether or not on-site processing is the right option for your business. If you need more assitance, contact us.

Question

Consideration

How much food waste do you produce?

Larger amounts of food waste will typically require larger pieces of equipment and more material to manage on the back-end.

What rate is your food waste produced?

Constant streams of food waste are better suited to a system that can be continuously fed, whereas if the food waste is produced more sporadically, a batch system may be better suited.

Is there a food waste hauling service available in your area?

It is worth looking into hauling food waste off site as well. Inquire with your current hauler to see if they offer food waste hauling. If not, see if there are other businesses offering it. You’ll want to compare costs of hauling food waste off site to the costs of running a system on-site.

Do you have space available for an additional piece of equipment? If so, how much space?

Depending on the system, required space may be indoors or outdoors. Also consider if you will be storing output material (e.g. compost) on-site and how much space you’ll need for that as well.

How much labor is required of the equipment being considered?

Someone may have to be there for start up, shut down, maintenance, material management, troubleshooting, training, etc. Consider asking the equipment supplier if you can have a trial period so you can properly assess these types of things.

If there is an energy requirement to the equipment, does the cost of electricity out weight the avoided hauling costs?

Remember to consider the cost of electricity if the system you’re considering is plug-in. Make sure to compare the costs of electricity to the potential costs saved on hauling on a normalized scale (e.g. per lb of food waste processed/hauled).

Do you have the desire or need for the output material on-site?

If you have a use for the output material on-site, great! If not, don’t get stuck with material you won't use. Make sure to figure out what you'll be doing with the ouput material before committing to a system. The equipment supplier may have suggestions for this.

Do you have the time and bandwidth to devote to learning how to properly run and maintain the equipment being considered?

The complexity of on-site systems ranges. Make sure you understand how much time you or your staff will need to devote to learning how to use the equipment, maintaining it, and managing the material that it produces.

Do you know what you will do with the outlet material?

You don’t want to be stuck with a large amount of material that you still don’t have a use for. For example, if you are considering an in-vessel composter, make sure you can either use the compost on-site or have a plan for a useful outlet for the compost.

For information on specific pieces of on-site equipment, visit this summary guide put together by Massachusetts Recycling Works.