Liberty leads the way on waste

According to Martin Allen, First Choice Environmental Solutions’ project manager, the first UK contract for the EnviroPure EPW food waste management system could be just days away.

While parent company First Choice Catering Spares has worked with the system’s US manufacturer T&S Brass for a number of years to supply its products to the UK market, the recently-launched environmental division decided in 2014 that EnviroPure was one of the big ticket items it wanted to focus on.

“It doesn’t cut across anything that our current customer base does,” detailed Allen. “It’s the building block of our environmental solutions arm, which we see as potentially growing with other products as they appear.”

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Allen joined the company last year with a brief to look at the UK market, the legislation and the food waste situation in the hospitality industry. “We assessed where the project could go by visiting some EnviroPure installations in America. There’s a lot of thought that has to go into installing a system, including investment and defining operational benefits,” he recalled.

The US outfits included two in iconic and environmentally sensitive areas: the Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls. The Crown Cafe on Liberty Island serves thousands of meals a day and if it did not have the machine there, it would have to pay fees to transport the food waste via boat. This installation has been up and running for over 2 years.

Allen spoke to the cafe’s staff and reported: “They were very positive about the whole thing, even though they questioned it at first. They embraced it as it made their daily working lives a lot easier. The machine eradicated the rodent issues they had been having.” He also visited New Rochelle hospital in New York state, as it has installed two EnviroPure machines.

The machine operates as a total onsite solution, which Allen believes is its unique selling point. Waste is fed into the system, the operator presses a button and the eventual result is just grey water. It can handle from 54kg to more than 6,000kg of waste a day. The liquid used to decompose food, called BioMix, has no enzymes either. “The water is far below the water authority requirement for an effluent level, and it eliminates fats, oils and grease,” he said. “You can feed all of your waste into it at once, or as and when it is produced, so it is a very flexible system.”

He believes that food waste is increasingly under the spotlight and as time goes by, legislation will get stronger, with taxation issues appearing too. Scotland led the way with its Zero Waste Regulations in 2012, and Allen predicted that the rest of the UK would follow suit. “We’ll see a fundamental change of direction, as it’s costing millions of pounds to sustain the effort of constantly repairing and maintaining drainage systems.” [[page-break]]

First Choice believes that the best way into the market for EnviroPure is through consultants, as they can specify the machine during the initial stages of kitchen design. As it is a bespoke and not a modular system, the design very much depends on the location of the machine and the function of the venue.

“We have employed a top-down approach, whereas if we’d gone to distributors first it would have been hard to get our message across in the same way,” detailed Allen. “Some dealers are very design-oriented but they often work closely with consultants to get to the point where the right equipment is specified. It’s important for us to get these consultants and major design houses onside. Once we get better penetration in the market then the dealers will come along.”

The supplier has received enquiries this year and is drawing up specifications, with completion for some expected imminently. “It’s just fine-tuning now, and if everything goes right we have indications that this will be repeated on other sites,” said Allen.

The firm believes that key markets are those where large quantities of food are prepared, such as universities and colleges, hospitals and staff canteens in large corporate headquarters. “In the 3-4 months since we exposed the product to the market, things have snowballed quite a bit,” Allen detailed. “We’re getting results by having an informed understanding of what the system does operationally and the benefits it can bring to organisations.”

Though the UK market has been a little slow to respond to food waste issues, Allen believes that is rapidly changing. “When operators look at kitchen equipment and their facilities, they have been looking at where the profit will come from. A lot of them struggle with the fact that there will be a capital cost to put waste management equipment in and they don’t initially see it as a benefit. But now they are realising that they have got a responsibility to take ownership of food waste and are exploring operational benefits and return on investment.”

From the US installations Allen observed, a return on investment can be 5 years or less. “It works better with higher waste volumes – the ROI can depend on the waste collection costs and operational issues.

“I recently visited a technology centre and the catering facility on site had a £900 monthly bill to maintain the drainage system due to all the fats, oils and grease going into the waste disposal units. It’s all about educating operators as to the benefits of EnviroPure, especially smaller and medium ones – larger operators are usually savvier.”

As the EnviroPure system is a developing product, the industry can expect to see some more options available soon. “The machine won’t be perfect for every particular installation but we do offer something unique. There will be a select number of options for food waste management and we want to ensure that as many key areas as possible understand that this option is available,” concluded Allen.

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