Tribune Print Share Text

Cedar Crest harnesses the future of food scraps

Created date

May 22nd, 2012

So you didn t clean your plate last night. No big deal; it ll biodegrade, right? Did you ever wonder where those food scraps go and what they produce on their way there? In 2008, Americans discarded 30,900 tons of food scraps, comprising 18.6% of all materials going to landfills or incinerators, according to the Clean Air Council. And on the way to the landfills, all those trucks filled with food waste spewed toxic greenhouse gases into the environment.

Zero waste goals

In recent years, though, the U.S. has been working toward zero waste goals, and New Jersey is at the head of the class. The zero waste philosophy encourages the redesign of resource life cycles to minimize any trash sent to landfills and incinerators. More and more companies are seeing that New Jersey is the place to collect and use food waste since we have so much of it, says Priscilla Hayes, director of the Solid Waste Resource Renewal Group, a unit at Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. There are exciting ways to process your food waste into things like usable compost, right on your own site. Now is the time to choose how you can best save money and greenhouse gases at the same time. Cedar Crest, an Erickson Living community of about 2,000 people in Pompton Plains, N.J., has jumped on the green bandwagon, creating numerous programs to help reduce their waste, including the go paperless initiative and the production and use of biodiesel fuel from its restaurants used cooking oil. This spring, the community began piloting a food waste liquefier system, Food2Water, which biodegrades food scraps into water overnight. The system, which takes up to 400 pounds of food waste at a time, will save the community 40% 70% in hauling fees, beginning with the first month. The great thing is you re saving on hauling, time, and food waste. You re taking the waste, and instead of sending it to a landfill which emits a carbon footprint, you re saving energy and the environment, says Bill Wallace, senior facilities manager at Cedar Crest.

How it works

On March 15, Cedar Crest began a three-month pilot of the Food2Water system in one of its five restaurants, each of which has a large, commercial kitchen. The Food2Water system, about the size of a standard refrigerator turned on its side, sits in an area of the kitchen where servers and kitchen workers scrape leftover food scraps, including meat, shellfish, and other items unfitting for a traditional garbage disposal. The system contains microorganisms. When filled to capacity or ready for use, the contents mix with warm water, and in 5 to 15 minutes, become water. The water drains from the system into a preexisting kitchen drain. There is no grinding, no noise like a dishwasher, and no smell, says Tommy Barbrella, CMO of Food2Water, LLC. The system can also receive leaves and foliage.

Future of liquefied food

One day we hope to take the water and use it for irrigation, recycling it full circle, Barbrella says. Wallace looks forward to that advancement. Right now the water is a simple byproduct, but the next generation is when you could see it being used for irrigation on our grounds. It s something to think about, Wallace says. For now, Cedar Crest plans to introduce the Food2Water system in its remaining four restaurants. We expect it to be successful, Wallace says of the pilot. A local hospital has had it in place for two years, and they say there s very little maintenance, and it s practically error-free. Cedar Crest s main goal, once the system is installed campus-wide, is to save money and contribute to Erickson Living s nationwide green effort. The main goal is to be more environmentally friendly, Wallace says, but there are financial benefits as well.