Restaurants are composting using new modern equipment that makes it both practical and economical to do on site. Today’s commercial composting solutions take the complex task of responsibly discarding food waste and make it easy for restaurants to implement.
If you work in a restaurant you know how much food is wasted every single day. According to the ReFED report in Restaurant Hospitality, “The restaurant industry alone generates about 11.4 million tons of food waste annually at a cost of about $25 billion per year.” The food waste epidemic has garnered nearly as much attention as single-use plastic waste in recent years. The waste is taking up tons of space in our landfills and generates methane gas that is 30 times more insulative of atmospheric heat than the carbon monoxide from our cars.
Getting Started with Composting in Your Restaurant
There are many different approaches restaurants can take to composting. If winters aren’t too severe where you live, you can mark off an area for a composting station on your property. If you don’t have the outdoor space or the right weather to compost naturally outdoors, not to worry, it is easy to start composting indoors.
Restaurant Business Online does a great job describing composting approaches. The first big distinction is pre- or post-consumer composting. Post-consumer composting of items like plate waste and compostable packaging requires a municipal program or specialized vendor and specialized equipment for sanitation and odor control. Several options are discussed below. Historically, when restaurants talk about composting, they typically refer to pre-consumer composting of items like fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds and filters. But post-consumer composting is gaining popularity because of the elegant high-tech solutions that are finally available.
Commercial Outdoor Compost Bins
If you have the outdoor space to house an outdoor commercial composting unit, there are many options. Here are the two best from 10 Outdoor Picks from Best of Machinery:
Envirocycle touts its product as “the most beautiful composter in the world“. It is American-made, offers a 35-gallon capacity with 3 air vents that provide optimum airflow. The drum’s door features an interlocking design that keeps the lid sealed tightly.
Jora Composters can handle almost any food due to its “unique insulation” enabling the composter to be used in any climate and throughout all seasons. It can create impressive heat and drive very high internal temperatures, which allows you to compost harder materials like fish and small chicken bones, avocado and peach pits etc.
Indoor Commercial Electric Composters and Food Recyclers
Electric commercial composting systems are more accurately considered food recyclers since they don’t create the typical compost mix. These food recyclers break down food waste quickly, using aeration and heat, much like a regular compost pile but produce an end product that is completely dry and sterile. Most compost has a high bacteria count and its neutral pH making it a great fertilizer and topsoil. Food recycler produces a sterile biomass (lacking bacteria) and cannot be immediately used as a topsoil. It will however regain much of its bacterial properties once added to garden soil. Bottom line, indoor composters offer fast, odorless, nutrient-rich fertilizer that will regain much of its bacteria once used with soil.
Oklin is one of the world’s leading food waste solution providers. Oklin’s GG-02 is an electric composting unit (18 x 18 inches wide and 30 inches tall) ideal for small-scale waste generators like restaurants and coffee shops. The GG-02 utilizes Acidulo® microbes to compost food waste in 24 hours, producing a nutrient-rich soil amendment that can be used in gardens. This is definitely a premium product, one of the best commercial composters we’ve found, and is not cheap, starting at over $1200. This restaurant owner testimonial summarizes the experience: “The peelings, the chopping, the leftovers, everything was composted, and it’s a very fast process. It turns to soil overnight,”
The EcoRich line of on-site commercial composters can help food waste producers of all sizes to recycle food waste. They are easy to use, and odor and pest free. Their automatic composting solution for commercial kitchens uses a unique process that recycles all food waste, cooked or uncooked (not just scraps or peelings) into a soil amendment in 24 hours.
Indoor Compost Bins
Indoor compost bins are an option for those looking to keep costs down and have dedicated space to keep indoor bins. The bins are only practical for pre-consumer food waste and not dinner scraps. Here are a few options:
Eco Crock is a contemporary countertop composter that holds up to three quarts of food scraps. The ceramic crock fits neatly into narrow spaces and was designed with an oval opening to make tossing those unused bits easy. It comes with a charcoal filter to prevent smells and an inner bucket to make discarding compost easy and clean.
Zero Waste Together carries a compost bin that easily mounts on the inside of a cabinet door. It comes with a handle for easy transportation and the lid stays up on its own for hands-free use / plate scraping. It also detaches from the mount so it can be used on the counter during food prep and is often used with biodegradable green liners.
Utopia Kitchen’s stainless steel countertop compost bin works great and also looks great. If you don’t want an ordinary plastic bin, this stylish canister has a beautiful design. The built in charcoal filter in this compost bin will retain and lock all the odor inside the canister keeping your kitchen odor free. It does not harbor any bacteria or leach any harmful chemicals like the plastic containers.