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Talking Trash: Waste Reduction Systems

The recent spike in gasoline prices not only affects the cost of restaurant deliveries—it also impacts the price of what is taken away. Trash collecting is usually charged on a volume or weight basis. Either way, there is a tremendous cost incentive to implement a waste-reduction system. In addition to lowering the fees for removal, fewer pounds (or cubic feet) of trash will result in savings in labor, space and utilities. These are the factors to consider when purchasing a waste-reduction system.

The kind of waste generated

The standard garbage disposer (aka disposal) is ideal for food left on diners’ plates and scraps generated during prep. But the packaging materials for that food take up just as much—if not more—space. Dual-purpose pulper-extractor systems are designed to handle both food waste and other disposables, like paper and cardboard. Water is used to grind down the waste into a slurry and excess moisture is pulled out. The resulting semi-dry sludge, which is then removed by trash collectors, is up to 85 percent smaller in volume. That
adds up to big savings.

Hobart, InSinkerator and Champion all manufacture pulper-extractor systems, with most operating in the 208 to 240 volt range. All require a fresh water connection and an indirect waste connection to handle the moisture extracted. Salvajor makes units that range in size from 3⁄4 HP for light-duty applications to heavy-duty disposers with motors in the 51⁄2 HP range. Most are available in 120 volts, but since the amperage loads can become quite large, consider purchasing units with 208 or 240 volts. The biggest units can operate at 460 volts.

A typical casual dining restaurant can generate nearly one pound of waste per meal served—reaching into the hundreds of pounds after one dinner. Trash receptacles fill quickly, and considerable time and energy are spent keeping them empty to prevent unsanitary conditions.

No wasted space

One of the better-kept secrets in waste reduction is the commercial trash compactor. Chicago Trashpacker and
Eco-Pack, two companies that manufacture compactors, boast units that achieve up to 20:1 waste reduction ratios—roughly 20 bags worth of trash can be compacted to the volume of one trash bag. Though most efficient when located near dumpsters (the compact waste cubes can be quite heavy), these small-footprint units can be placed anywhere.

Green trash

Composting, the natural decomposition of organic waste into nutrient-rich matter (humus), is a waste reduction method that can decrease a restaurant's environmental footprint. All you need is a large bin filled with wood chips equal in volume to the waste collected.

Compost material is picked up by a company specializing in this service and turned into organic fertilizer. It can cost nothing (if the composting facility is run by a municipality), but usually doesn’t run as high as traditional waste removal, since the compost is sold to farmers to offset removal costs. Food waste starts a second life back in the earth instead of in landfills, where nearly one-fifth of waste is discarded food. 

Click here to view the comparison chart.

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