Q&A | WASTE
Food waste technology: the end of food waste as we know it
With awareness growing about the harm we as consumers are doing to the planet, companies and organisations are looking to take hold of issues such as food waste. Rosie Lintott talks to Matthew Golding, food waste consultant at ORCA about how they are tackling the problem.
Image: courtesy of Toast Ale
ORCA is an innovative food waste solution, using new technology that mimics the natural digestion process. It works using the same principles that the human body and other living organisms are governed by, that digests food waste into a liquid. ORCA’s vision is to take every rubbish truck off the road by distributing an alternative that, as well as reducing food waste, will reduce CO2 emissions globally. ORCA works with industries across all sectors that want to tackle food waste; we found out how they are going about helping businesses to achieve zero food waste to landfill by 2030.
Talk to me about your company
ORCA mimics the human digestive process; it takes food waste through a combination of air, microorganisms and water and then digests that into an earth friendly liquid. [That liquid] is transported to a waste water treatment plant and that goes on for further processing, that is typically turned into bio gas and any minerals they get are used for land application, which essentially makes ORCA 100% recyclable technology.
On-board the machine there are scales and what those scales do is link to a personalised portal so, as it feeds the ORCA, it time stamps it so you get a complete transparency of how much food waste you’re throwing away in your business. We then use that data to create customer ports and create them in partnership with a waste minimisation strategy. While the ORCA is a recycling technology specifically for food waste, we can make the principals of the base hierarchy; we want to encourage our clients to reduce reuse and recycle, recycling is obviously what the ORCA does, but we use the data that is available through the portal to create a strategy to help them reduce what they would be putting in the orca in the first place.
The technology is manufactured in Canada and is now distributed internationally in locations including America, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Germany and the UK. There are new countries taking the ORCA on board quite regularly, making this quite a fast growing technology. The product has been manufactured for five years internationally; it has been present in the UK for about 18 months and our first two clients were the Langham hotel and the London Olympic stadium.
What food waste gets turned into liquid and how is the water used?
In terms of the digestive process, things that can’t be put in there are things like bones, avocado pips; if you can’t eat it then it can’t go in the ORCA, so 100% of what goes in is sent to draining and recycled. The liquid that comes out as grey water is less harmful than what comes out of a commercial dishwasher. In the same way that our human waste gets sent to drain and processed by the waste water treatment plants, that’s what happens with the grey water produced from the ORCA, so that travels through the system infrastructure that’s already in place then that goes through the waste water treatment plants and is turned into biogas typically. It is then used to run the waste water treatment plant. There are some water companies in the UK that don’t have that so we would work alongside each client to understand where the ORCA is best suited for their business.
What companies have you worked with to use this product?
We have worked with The Oval, which is a cricket venue, they have two of our machines; we’re really proud and the Cricket World Cup kicked off at The Oval where England played South Africa, so we’re essentially providing our environmentally friendly food waste solution at a marquee sporting event that is recognised internationally. We’ve obviously got the Langham five star hotel, St George’s development, which is part of the Berkeley group, and the Confederate Construction Scheme that looks at all building and construction plans and is our best practice as they won a gold site award for implementing the ORCA food waste technology in their staff canteen.
We are now part of the Sustainable Restaurant Association we now work with members of the association. They have just kicked off a food waste by post campaign which will work in partnership with their members to encourage and help with better segregation and reduction of food waste and will hopefully use our technology with a number of their members. It’s probably a couple of months too early to say but there are a couple of national chains that we are speaking to that are very keen on our technology.
How big of an issue do you think food waste is?
It is the biggest issue in terms of not only commercial but domestic because it’s widely recognised that a third of all food generated is thrown away; the whole system needs a radical change. We will see a lot more vegan and vegetarian diets becoming more and more popular and new initiatives such as meat free Mondays. There seems to be more initiatives coming out to encourage a more sustainable way of eating so it’s changing the country’s habits.
Where do you see your company in five years’ time, do you think it will grow in popularity?
We would see ourselves as the market leader with our technology providing our food waste solutions to hotels, restaurants, stadiums, hospitals and large venues throughout the UK. It’s not only the technology, it’s the way that we do business that is important we are very relationship-based, our clients’ needs are of paramount importance to us and we always put the needs of our clients first above all things. There are other companies out there that have similar technology to us but the running costs and the environmental benefits aren’t as prevalent as the ORCA.
Our technology has been independently verified by a company called Golder Associates, there is a lifecycle assessment that has been taken that looks at our method and the ORCA versus other methods. Would they be better at composting landfill [for example]? And the data behind the science is factually true in that the ORCA technology is the most sustainable way of getting rid of food waste. The fact that we have weight, time and date information that is able to be done in partnership with correct training and to be able to create a waste minimisation strategy.
Like this you can see all the good work that WRAP has done, they averaged out that every £1 spent on new technology you’re looking at £12 a pair. It’s not only the cost of the spending that each considers it’s the time, the cost of generating the actual food that would be wasted in the first place. So you’ve got cost of goods, labour, delivery costs combined with better installation Ideally we want to be promoting it because of the waste hierarchy which is to reduce, reuse and recycle; so if we can promote that with our technology that’s great.
Can you talk more about your vision in taking trucks off the road?
To take the trucks off the road is a big impact in regards to CO2 reduction, so reducing carbon dioxide and the cost of food waste is even more important than the transportation. If you can eliminate the main cost by implementing a technology, and understanding that there is a lack of transparency of how much food waste is being disposed of. So we provide much better transparency with data and create a strategy in partnership with our clients to allow them to reduce what they’re creating in the first place, that is how we would aim to achieve our goal of taking food waste trucks off the roads.
Where do you want to see the company in five years’ time?
I would like to see products of this company in regular food halls rather than medical or supplement sections, whilst keeping all its health benefits. I think it is time for us to stop thinking about our food disconnected from medical/healthcare and create more delightful preventive tools that we will all want to eat, rather than something that we have to eat.
Final question – I know that you’ve already touched on the Crowdfunder efforts but what can we look forward to for Toast Ale in the next three to five years?
Well we’re only three years old and so much is happening for us, it’s so hard to predict that far in to the future. As you said, we have our Crowdfunder that’s live for the next three weeks. In August/September we will be re-launching with new branding that helps better communicate our story and environmental missions – explaining that it’s not just about bread – it’s the wider impact that food waste has on the planet. So the re-brand is quite a big project that we’ve been working on, which we’re really excited to get out there.
Going into next year, we will continue to expand across the US and looking at ways in which we can collaborate more on an international basis. We’ve recently done a collaboration in Australia, which is probably our furthest one. It’s still brewing – it’s fermenting at the moment, so it’s not quite ready yet. But yeah, we’re looking at more opportunities internationally to spread the knowledge of brewing with surplus bread and supporting charities internationally.