The Costs for Commercial Food Recycling in California

June 3, 2024

3 minutes, 28 seconds read

The Costs for Commercial Food Recycling in California

California business owners face significant expenses when disposing of organic waste. There are significant costs to labor, time, energy, resources, and most importantly, the environment. Before delving into the more tangible financial costs associated with food waste management, it is important to understand how recycling food waste plays a pivotal role in mitigating environmental damage.

When food waste decomposes in landfills, it emits methane—a potent greenhouse gas—thus exacerbating climate change. Food waste presents significant environmental challenges beyond greenhouse gas emissions, including landfill pollution and resource depletion. Recognizing these challenges, California has implemented proactive waste management initiatives to combat climate change and promote sustainability, setting an example for other regions to follow.

California’s Mandatory Organic Waste Law

In January 2023, California took a monumental step forward in waste management with the implementation of SB-1383, the New Statewide Mandatory Organic Waste Collection law. This legislation served as a catalyst, propelling businesses and institutions towards a more sustainable future by mandating strict protocols for organic waste disposal. Failure to comply with these regulations would result in significant repercussions, ranging from fines and citations to potential legal action, underscoring the seriousness of adherence.

With this legislation came not only the weight of legal obligations but also a series of financial and legislative incentives designed to encourage compliance and innovation. California businesses swiftly recognized the imperative to adapt to these new standards, prompting a wave of initiatives aimed at implementing efficient and eco-conscious waste management practices.

Amidst this transition, businesses are confronted with the task of selecting the most suitable method for food waste recycling. Common options include composting, anaerobic digestion, aerobic digestion, and dehydration, each offering distinct advantages and associated costs. Factors such as service requirements, waste volume, and infrastructure play a crucial role in determining the most viable solution for individual businesses. As such, thorough assessment and strategic decision-making are essential in navigating the landscape of food waste recycling services in California.

Food waste management and price breakdown

Composting is well-suited for businesses with a high volume of organic waste, particularly those located near processing facilities. While composting facilities can handle over 2000 tons of organic waste annually, the process requires labor-intensive efforts and transportation for waste hauling and composting. On average, the cost to transport and compost 1 ton of food waste is approximately $120.

Anaerobic digestion is beneficial for businesses situated near a facility which can then utilize the energy produced. These digesters use microorganisms to recycle organic materials, producing biogas and valuable soil products. Although specific comparative data for the United States is not readily available, in the UK, the estimated cost to process a ton of waste using anaerobic digestion is around $55.

Aerobic digestion is suitable for businesses seeking on-site, environmentally friendly waste management solutions. These machines use aerobic digestion to break down food waste into grey water for easy disposal. With a wide capacity range and a daily energy consumption of 14 kWh, the estimated cost to process one ton of food waste using the LFC biodigester from Power Knot is approximately $5.50, based on PG&E’s 2024 discounted business rates for electricity.

Dehydrators are ideal for businesses with infrequent waste disposal needs, especially those utilizing solar power due to their high energy consumption. These machines, often called “composters,” handle organic waste by removing the water in the food waste through a drying process. The resulting material is dried food waste that is about 10% of the original volume. This must be disposed of as it is illegal to discard this on the ground in California. The estimated cost to process one ton of food waste using a bio-dehydrator is approximately $50, considering PG&E’s 2024 discounted business rates for electricity.

Each method offers unique advantages, from nutrient-rich compost production to renewable energy generation. Aerobic digestion is the most cost effective method of handling organic waste while composting is the most expensive method with the most eco-friendly output. However, businesses must carefully assess their waste management needs, considering factors like waste volume, space availability, and budget constraints. With a commitment to sustainable practices, businesses can not only reduce their environmental footprint but also enhance their reputation as responsible corporate citizens. Contact Power Knot to learn more