The UN Environment Program estimates that around one third of the food produced for human consumption gets lost or wasted every year. This is equivalent to 1.3 billion tons of food. If this was not bad enough, getting rid of this amount of food result in huge fuel costs for transportation as well as the creation of methane (one of the most harmful greenhouse gases) when rotting away in landfills or similar places. However, as always, where there is a problem there is business. There actually are several interesting initiatives emerging around the world, trying to come up with solutions tackle the above issue with a multitude of approaches. In this article, we want to take a look at company that as managed to reap early rewards in catering to the huge market of food wasting entities.
The company BioHitech America has invented a machine simply and aptly named the Eco-Safe Digester, a solution which uses an aerobic process to turn food-waste into grey water. This might initially not sound very thrilling, but there is actually a lot more value emerging from the concept to be found when one begins to contemplate upon its ingeniousness. You see, as BusinessGreen points out, the grey water is of course not suitable for drinking but can instead be emptied into a regular drain and transported efficiently with almost zero emission to a water treatment plant. Water, a commodity many of us take for granted, can be extremely precious and a limited resource not just in developing countries (take the prosperous California for example). The more water we can extract and reuse, the better.
Of course, the amount of water generated by solutions such as the Eco-Safe Digester might seem negligible when zooming out and looking at the world’s water cycle, but it gives an indication about a future economization of the resources many in the west world take for granted. Also, the real benefit lies in defeating the above mentioned problems related to the emissions caused by transporting and the methane generated by leaving the food to rot (methane has a global warming potential 21 times larger than CO2). The grey water produced by the machine can also be used for other more direct practices such as irrigation and flushing toilets, for instance, which means that treating the water is far from the only application.
The largest model of the Eco-Safe Digester can process as much as 1,130 kilograms (2,400 pounds) in 24 hours. According to BusinessGreen, the machine is not only very energy efficient and uses the electricity equivalent to a fridge, but also it runs almost silently and does not produce any real odor. Moreover, as any good business case, the solution is not only contributing to saving the environment but also saves money for businesses. Using the UK as an example, it is estimated that the domestic businesses could save £2 billion a year by eliminating food waste to landfill by 2020.
Furthermore, one of the most important features of the digestion machine is that businesses can track when during the day they create the most waste and act accordingly, cutting away the redundant extra food prepared for breakfast, buffés, lunch, dinner and so forth. The Eco-Safe Digester moreover provides regular updates on emission savings equivalents in the form of number of trees you would have to plant or how many cars you would have to take off the road to achieve the same environmental savings as the machine.
In the US the solution has already been deployed in a multitude of places, not only in over 100 hospitals, but also in several malls, restaurants and prisons. In Europe the target market extends to island resorts, cruise ships and service stations along highways. The hospitality sector is said to be one of the absolutely largest target markets since it is the business are that produces the most waste and thus could benefit the most from an economical perspective.