Vancouver's Greentail Environmental aims to stop organics from going to waste

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      Vancouver green entrepreneur Domingo de Torres claims machines his company sells are liquifying food waste “at source” and in turn keep “trucks off the road”.

      Like his business partner Mark Mountenay, de Torres has a background in Big Grocery but now has thrown his lot behind a technology pioneered in South Korea.

      The two are the vice presidents of marketing and sales, respectively, at Greentail Environmental, the exclusive Canadian distributor of BioHitech’s GohBIO and SuperGo H20 food-waste-to-water technologies.

      The two men showed off one machine, a 1,200-pounds-per-load piece of innovative genius that costs a cool $69,195, at the B.C. Foodservice Expo at the Vancouver Convention Centre on January 31.

      “The significance of it is—when you question it with [regard to] Metro Vancouver—if we were just to install 100 units of 1,200 [pounds of food waste], going at full capacity a year, one machine can divert 219 tons a year,” de Torres told the Straight at the expo. “So if you multiply that by 100, it’s 21,900. That is significant. That is food waste not going to the landfill. It’s not being trucked away. It’s not producing methane. It’s being handled right at source. So what we are looking at essentially is taking the trucks off the road.”

      As de Torres readily demonstrates, all that’s needed to get set up (within the hour) is a plug-in, a drain, a warm water source, and the food waste. Then, a highly refined formula of safe-to-touch, government-approved micro-organisms produce enzymes that aerobically break down waste into water that is “city-compliant”, he explained.

      “The most amount of food waste is coming from restaurants, is coming from hotels, and is coming from grocery stores,” de Torres said. “That’s a large percentage of food waste coming into the landfill. We have a solution that can handle it right at source. It’s very easy to install, very easy to maintain, and it is very easy to operate. Simple.”

      Greentail has already made some inroads locally. T&T Supermarkets was having a problem at its Chinatown location, particularly as the hot sun began to heat a lot of the separated food waste, such as fish and meat, de Torres said.

      “So T&T approached us last year, because we were testing in their central kitchen,” he said. “They said, ”˜I think we need one of your machines in our Chinatown location.’ So we installed two 1,200s, all the food waste was going into the machine, rather than outside, and we’ve eliminated their smell problem. The tenants were happy.”

      Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore, chair of Metro Vancouver’s waste management committee, was present at the expo, where he spoke on the topic of food waste reduction from the waste stream.

      He told the Straight that Metro’s solid waste management plan contains a hard-and-fast target to eliminate all organic waste from garbage produced in single-family homes by 2012, and multi-family homes by 2015.

      This amounts to a total diversion of 395,000 tons of kitchen scraps out of landfills, Moore said.

      “So my take on what’s happening right now with the kitchen scraps, and this [Greentail] is a great example, is, because Metro has come forward and the directors have said, ”˜We’re going to start banning kitchen scraps from landfills and waste-to-energy,’ we see a lot of private-sector engagement in bringing in solutions to try to help with that,” Moore said by phone. “Whether it’s on the larger end, of Harvest Power, or Richmond Soil and Fibre getting funding to bring in a 40,000 ton-a-year biodigester, or it’s on a smaller scale, that goes to what you’re talking about and into a kitchen, there is a lot of private-sector interest. They know that bylaws are going to come in to ban it and so therefore they can get the investment to make into our region.”

      Moore agreed that forking over close to $70,000 is a “pretty significant investment”, but said there is a bigger picture question.

      “Most businesses probably haven’t done [a full costing-out of] what it costs them to get rid of the organics,” he said. “So $70,000 sounds like a lot until they’ve looked at how much they are paying for tipping fees and what they could save if they had a high percentage of organics that they didn’t have to pay for anymore.”

      Moore said he’d like to see Metro take a couple of businesses, particularly from the restaurants or supermarket end of things, and “build a case study” around what they are doing, looking at the economics and the environmental aspects. According to Moore, this allows other businesses to say, “That pretty well parallels my numbers and my business, and I can now see how, if I make this change, not only is it good for the environment—and my customers will like that—but it is also good for my bottom line.”

      De Torres said households are next in line when it comes to innovation at Greentail.

      “We will be coming out with a technology, a very similar food-waste-to-water technology that will replace the garburator, and it will fit underneath the sink, using the same technology with the microorganisms, it can take the food waste and turn it into water,” he said.

      Will it be called the Garbonator?

      “We haven’t thought of a name yet, but we will consider that one,” De Torres said.

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      1 Comments

      Rebecca

      Mar 8, 2012 at 10:31pm

      Am I missing something here or is this "green" technology simply flushing nutrients into the sewer system where it puts extra load on the sewage treatment plant. The amount of energy that goes into making food is enormous and each kg of food waste can have up to 4000 calories! Doesn't it make more sense to convert food waste to energy or animal feed or vermicomposted with worms. This system actually USES energy and flushes millions of calories down the toilet, along with 1000s of gallons of fresh water, where it is mixed with human waste, which is very difficult and costly to treat.This technology is not the solution, it simply sweeps the problem of food waste handling under the rug and translates the costs to the tax payer by increasing operating costs at the municipal sewage treatment plant.