Why aerobic digestion is set to modernise food waste management

At a point in time when consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of environmental issues and sustainability trends, commercial kitchens are still throwing away £75 billion worth of food waste annually.

Around 40% (7.3 million tonnes) of the food waste generated in the UK is still disposed of via landfill, which has a number of worrying implications for our environment.

Sending food waste to landfill produces large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25% more efficient than carbon dioxide in trapping heat within the atmosphere.

Thankfully technology has caught up with this problem and presents the hospitality industry with a real opportunity for tangible change. The way in which food waste is processed is already changing for many businesses thanks to innovative technologies, that represent both green practice and money saving investment.

Some of the biggest names to have invested in the technology already include the hotel giants Radisson Blu and renowned restaurant chain Nobu.

How does aerobic digestion work?

Aerobic digesters accelerate natural processes of decomposition, producing only heat, water and carbon dioxide (a gas that’s 1/20th the potency of methane). Digesters use naturally occurring bacteria to break down waste, and most can process anywhere from 20kg to 500 kg of food waste in a 24 hour period (depending on the size of digester).

Read on to find out how aerobic respiration can save your business money and dramatically increase your sustainability!


Aerobic V Anaerobic

It’s important to distinguish between two food waste processing methods that are often confused for one another, but differ greatly in a number of ways.

Aerobic

  • The full process takes between 24 hours and 5 days depending on the chosen waste processor.
  • Organic matter is broken down in the presence of oxygen.
  • Food waste is broken down into grey water, which can be removed with existing drainage systems.
  • Technology more commonly used in-house by businesses. E.g. commercial kitchens

Anaerobic

  • The full process can take up to a year.
  • Organic matter is broken down in the absence of oxygen.
  • Food waste is broken down into compost or biofertilizer.
  • Technology implemented on a large scale, products have not been designed for wide scale commercial usage.
  • The methane that is produced can be fed into the national grid and power site facilities.

Why aerobic digestion is a great food waste solution for your business.

Aerobic technology has now been harnessed and commercial aerobic digesters becoming widely available to the hospitality industry. Hotels, restaurants, sports stadiums, B&B’s and bars now can process their own food waste onsite, has several benefits:

  • Most digesters have digital monitoring capabilities. Businesses can track exactly what foods are going to waste and identify over spending as it happens.
  • Food waste can be fully contained. Your staff and guests will be able to benefit from increased hygiene and no odours.
  • A reduction of carbon emissions from food waste transportation.
  • Food waste avoids landfill and does not produce harmful methane.
  • Staff resources can be more effectively put to use. Food waste preparation can be reduced thanks to digital monitoring and handling time dramatically shortened.

What if I choose to process my food waste anaerobically?

The process of anaerobic respiration remains possible only at a large scale of operation, requiring a whole dedicated site for processing and round the clock maintenance. Wide scale commercial versions of the technology simply do not exist.

While you cannot process food waste anaerobically on your site, you can arrange sending your waste to be processed in this way at a dedicated facility. It is important to note however that this would likely represent a sizeable rolling expense for your business.

Similarly anaerobic respiration solutions still require the transportation of your food waste to dedicated sites. This represents a number of additional concerns for businesses in awaiting food waste collection, emissions generated from transportation and additional staff handling of food waste.

For more information on how aerobic digesters can benefit your business, contact us. If you found this article useful, please like and share it below!