Michael Hess

Before any company makes a major decision, it must consider all options and determine what’s best for the company as a whole based on size, value, demographics and several other factors. Determining which organics recycling equipment is best for a company is no different. There are multiple options with benefits and drawbacks for each choice. It’s up to the company to do research and select the equipment that will best fit its needs.

Waste generated by businesses can be classified into two categories: organic and inorganic waste. Organic waste includes material such as food scraps, lawn cuttings and tree branches — any material that comes from a plant or animal and will decompose. The overarching organics waste management goal of any company should be to reuse or repurpose as much waste as possible; however, there is a tremendous amount of organic material from industries that is misused and can no longer be turned into a productive product. The largest amount of organic waste in the commercial sector comes from grocery stores, restaurants, hotels and food manufacturing/distribution centers. According to a 2018 EPA report on food waste, the commercial sector produced around 31 million tons of wasted food in a single year. Among all of the disposal possibilities, the majority percentage of food waste produced in 2018 was diverted to landfills, where the material cannot break down and produces harmful greenhouse gases.

Organic waste can be reused through composting, donating food scraps and turning the waste into bio-fuel, and can be recycled through many other methods. There is specialized equipment companies can use to collect and recycle organics, including compost bins, specialized compactors and heavy-duty shredders.

Compost Bins

One method of organics recycling is composting, which is when organic waste is collected in a compost bin to break down into fertile soil that can be reused in gardens. Recycling organic waste through composting is one method companies could implement. There are several pros when it comes to using compost bins for organic waste recycling, one of them being that compost bins are generally on the smaller side and take up less space than other recycling equipment options. Compost bins may be appropriately sized for a company producing a small amount of organic waste. Using compost bins to collect organic material is the most cost-effective method of recycling.

While there are multiple pros to using compost bins, this method has its downfalls, as well. One con for this equipment is that it may not be practical for any company that produces large amounts of organic waste. A company may require larger collection containers for the amount of organic material it produces. The smaller size also means the bin would need to be emptied more frequently, requiring time from an employee or professional service to do so. Compost bins are generally made from non-industrial materials, such as wood, plastic or thin metal, and they have a lid opening that creates the possibility of being accessible to pests, such as bugs, racoons or other unwelcome creatures. The compost bin structure and opening also leads to less odor control than other equipment.

Organic Waste Compactor/Recycling Containers

Another way to recycle organic material using equipment is with an organic waste compactor or enclosed recycling container. One benefit of this equipment is that the waste compactors and recycling containers are specifically designed to handle organic waste. Most machinery is equipped with pre-crushers to assist the breakdown process of the organic material. Once the waste has been pre-crushed, it will take less time to decompose and be available for use as a different organic product. Waste compactors and recycling containers are generally larger than compost bins, so they’re able to accommodate more waste. This equipment is also tightly contained, keeping out pests and minimizing any odors produced by the organic waste.

The large capacity of organic waste compactors and recycling containers may be just what one company needs, but it also may be too large of a container for companies producing small amounts of organic waste or with limited physical space. These containers need to be professionally emptied by a properly equipped waste management service. This method of organics recycling can also be a safety hazard and employees tasked with using the equipment need to be properly trained. Although the use of this equipment has the potential to save money for a company in the long run, the upfront costs are significantly higher than if a company were to use a compost bin for organics recycling.

Heavy-Duty Waste Shredder

Organics recycling can also be done using a heavy-duty waste shredder, which shreds the organic material into fine pieces, aiding in the decomposition process. This method is the most efficient way to recycle organics and can handle large amounts of waste input. Heavy-duty shredders would be the best option for companies that produce substantial amounts of organic waste, such as grocery stores and restaurants.

While heavy-duty waste shredders are efficient, they’re also the most dangerous equipment option. Any employee who uses it should be properly trained prior to using the machinery, and those who haven’t completed the training should not attempt to use the shredder under any circumstances. This equipment has the highest accident potential, which should be taken into consideration when selecting equipment. In addition to being dangerous, the shredder machinery is the most expensive organics recycling option. Similar to the organic waste compactor and recycling containers, the heavy-duty shredders occupy a large amount of space, so this may not be an appropriate option for smaller companies.

No matter which equipment a company chooses, it’s important to designate a system within the company to recycle any organic waste and have it transported to a facility where it will be composted or converted into other organic products and given new purpose. If a suitable option is not immediately apparent, companies should consult with a professional waste management service to determine which organics recycling equipment would best meet their needs.

Michael Hess is founder and chief executive officer of Waste Harmonics, a Rochester, New York-based company that provides customized waste and recycling management solutions for businesses across North America. Michael leads Waste Harmonics’ team of waste/recycling, technology, logistics and customer service experts who manage waste and recycling services — which deliver significant costs savings — for single- and multi-location businesses in a wide range of categories, including retail, grocery, restaurant, travel center, logistics, distribution and shipping. Prior to founding Waste Harmonics, Hess served as vice president of U.S. operations for Capital Environmental Resource Inc., a solid waste collection and disposal company with $120 million in revenue and operations in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada. During his tenure at Capital Environment, Hess served as an integral part of the acquisition, startup and integration of 11 solid-waste companies for more than two and a half years. Michael acquired Waste Harmonics from Capital Environment in 2001 and has since grown the business from a solely Northeastern U.S. focus to serving customers throughout the U.S. and Canada. For more information, call (585) 924-9640, e-mail [email protected] or visit wasteharmonics.com.