Making the business case to justify investment in new equipment can always be a challenge. Given the competing demands upon building owners’ and operators’ budgets, it can be tough to determine which investments will be most impactful over time.
To be effective, your business case must weigh both the upfront cost of the investment and the long-term operational impact. For biodigesters, this long-term view should encompass both the cost of operating the new equipment and the potential cost savings that come from shifting to a new method of food waste disposal.
Below, we outline the visible and hidden costs of traditional methods of food waste disposal and how a biodigester can actually save you money.
Cost of traditional methods of food waste disposal
Food waste disposal is a baseline necessity for any organization that produces food products whether it is packaged food or food for a restaurant. This makes it easy to overlook just how costly this practice can be. However, food waste management generates a significant number of direct and indirect costs, as we detail below.
Waste management services
The direct cost of traditional food waste disposal – that is, sending food waste to the landfill – is the cost of waste management services. In some areas, the cost of waste management is a flat rate for the collection and transportation of waste. In other areas, waste management service providers may add tipping charges to each additional bin.
While waste management costs vary, ExpertMarket puts the monthly collection cost of a 2-yard dumpster at around $130.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) reports that landfill tipping fees average over $54 a ton nationwide.
Additional fees may be levied in the event of difficulty to access bins. These costs rise significantly for organizations that require frequent food waste pickup in order to maintain a hygienic environment.
National waste collection company Haulla reports that businesses with five-day-a-week pickup of up to 5 cubic yards of waste can expect to pay as much as $2,600.
There are also a number of indirect costs to the disposal of food waste that can be more difficult to track. First and foremost is the time spent on gathering waste and moving it out to the dumpster. This is more than an unpleasant task. Lifting heavy bags can also be physically taxing. The repetitive manual labor involved in removing garbage can lead to back strain, muscle tears, and other injuries. This can contribute to workers’ sick days. More simply, this is time that could be better spent on other activities.
More recently, organizations are finding that consumers are willing to pay more for products and business practices that benefit the environment. Organizations that are able to provide proof of environmentally responsible disposal of food waste are better positioned to attract business.
In addition, many organizations are beginning to take harder looks at their supply chain partners’ Scope 3 emissions. Scope three emission categories include all of the indirect emissions generated as a result of an organization’s operational decisions. For food producers, this includes emissions generated during production, distribution, and by the end-of-life disposal of wasted food.
Finally, more food waste-producing organizations are becoming subject to regulatory constraints on how they dispose of food waste. For example, in 2024, California jurisdictions will have the ability to levy fines upon residents of up to $500 per offense for not separating organic waste.
The payback on your biodigester investment
Understanding the cost of your existing methods for the disposal of food waste is a critical first step. Next, it’s important to understand how the investment in a biodigester can offset those costs.
Onsite biodigesters are installed in the food preparation area in order to minimize the labor required to dispose of food waste. This sealed equipment breaks down food using all-natural microorganisms. Organic material is broken down into a harmless grey water that can be disposed of down the sewer (or through onsite irrigation) rather than in the garbage can.
Because biodigesters are able to digest most food waste, they can significantly reduce the amount of garbage going to the landfill. This has the potential to help heavy food producers reap cost savings by downgrading to smaller bins or less frequent pick-ups.
However, biodigesters also provide savings by delivering data that organizations can use to change the way they operate. Because biodigesters can collect data about the food they’re breaking down, they can deliver valuable insight into how much food organizations are wasting. This data can help organizations reexamine their purchasing practices in ways that could lead to less spending on the foods that customers are most likely to overlook.
Equipment like the LFC biodigester is built to last fifteen to 25 years. However, most organizations that invest in a biodigester realize a two-year payback period.
While the payback period may vary by organization, the best way to determine your potential cost savings is to contact Power Knot and discuss how you can benefit from an onsite biodigester.
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