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Composting in Your Commercial Kitchen

Composting in Your Commercial Kitchen

Estimates show that as much as 70% of a commercial kitchen’s waste is made up of organic material like food scraps and soiled napkins. With increasing garbage hauling costs and bulging landfills, now is the time to find alternative methods of waste management. Depending on the method used, all of the organic waste produced in the commercial kitchen can be composted.

Did you Know?
The practice of composting can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but only within the last 50 years have scientists been able to understand how the process works.
Etruscan helmet
Composting Defined

Composting is the practice of mixing various organic materials together in a bin or heap where, if properly aerated, microorganisms consume the material and leave behind a nutrient rich product called humus, mulch or compost. The humus can be used as a soil additive that helps stimulate plant growth and improve the soil’s condition.

A compost pile simply speeds up the natural process of biodegradation that occurs with all organic materials. However, there are certain materials, like bio-plastics, that will only biodegrade under commercial composting conditions. » Learn More

On-Site Composting

New technology exists that can actually provide commercial composting conditions at a food service establishment. Products like the Somat eCorect composter can turn any organic material into compost in as little as 24 hours.

Though the initial investment is usually very high, an on-site composter can virtually eliminate your organic waste. Large commercial kitchens like hotels and college campuses that also do their own landscaping will benefit greatly from an on-site composter.

A word of caution: You will want to check with your health inspector as to whether or not on-site composting is allowed. Since you are dealing with a lot of food waste, the local codes might not allow on-site composting due to the risk of disease, no matter how efficient the composter.

Compostable Materials

Nearly all of the organic materials found in a commercial kitchen can be composted. The following table lists the most common items found in or around a restaurant and whether or not they can be composted.

Compostable
Not Compostable
Cardboard
Diseased plants
Coffee grounds and filters
Animal feces
Newspaper
Styrofoam
Soiled napkins and paper towels
Petroleum based plastics
Grass clippings and yard trimmings
Charcoal ash
Fruits and vegetables
Yard trimmings treated with pesticides
Egg shells
Glossy paper
Tea bags
 
Vaccuum cleaner and dryer lint
 
Landfills are not compost heaps.
Composting requires air and moisture to properly biodegrade the materials. Both of these are lacking in landfills. Compostable material can last for decades if placed in a landfill.
landfill
Bones, meat and dairy

Food items containing bones, meat, dairy or large amounts of fat will attract vermin and disease. They can only can be composted under ideal composting conditions. » Learn More

Composting Benefits

A successful composting program can benefit both your business and the environment.

  • Reduces garbage disposal fees.
  • Decreases the need for landfill space.
  • Improves soil fertility and plant growth.
  • Shows customers that you are environmentally conscious.
  • Closes the food waste loop by returning food waste back to the environment to grow new plants.
Getting Started
  • Conduct a waste assessment. Knowing the types of organic material in your waste stream will determine if you can go with a person using conventional composting or if you need to look for a commercial composting facility.
  • Talk to your trash handler. The first place to look for new waste handling alternatives is your current trash handler. See if they have any options for organic waste pickup.
  • Check the yellow pages. A simple search through the phone book will turn-up any commercial compost facilities in your area.
  • Consider on-site composting. After doing a cost/benefits analysis and assuring your local codes permit them, an on-site composter can greatly reduce your waste hauling fees.
  • Talk to local growers. Oftentimes landscapers, greenhouses and farmers have their own composting operations already in place and should be happy to accept more organic material for their heaps.
  • Look for a hog farmer. If the majority of your food waste contains dairy products, fats, meats or bones and a commercial composting facility is not available, a local hog farmer can add these materials to the pig slops.
  • Split the cost. If several restaurants are grouped together, you can speak to them about splitting the cost and services of the organic waste composter you are using. This will also show that you are proactive about helping your community and diverting waste from the landfill.

Whomever you contract with, it is important to make sure both parties adhere to a pick-up schedule. If left to sit around too long, your organic waste will begin to rot and attract unwanted vermin and diseases.