LFC biodigester eliminates food waste from Palette Kumoji Department Store Ryubo

February 26, 2024

OKINAWA, JP — Palette Kumoji stands as Okinawa’s inaugural urban redevelopment building, situated in the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan. Anchoring this impressive structure is the prestigious Ryubo high-end department store, a defining feature of Okinawa Prefecture’s retail landscape. In addition to the department store, Palette Kumoji is a commercial complex that includes restaurants, food supermarkets, offices, a movie theater, a civic theater and gallery, and a post office, and is managed by Kumoji Urban Development Corporation. 

Established in 1991, Palette Kumoji commands attention with its 10-story architectural marvel, complemented by two basement levels, encompassing a sprawling 55,000 square meters. The complex attracts an estimated 6 million visitors annually and sustains a dedicated workforce of approximately 620 employees. 

Palette Kumoji previously used conventional waste management practices in which food waste was collected from designated boxes in a room temperature environment along the staff corridor. However, this approach resulted in unsightly surroundings marked by stains and unpleasant odors, exacerbating issues with vermin and pests such as cockroaches, rats, and stray cats. The visibility of the collection point to commuters and customers further underscored the need for improvement in the overall landscape.

This challenge was effectively addressed in May 2023 with the implementation of the LFC-200 biodigester at Palette Kumoji. This innovative system facilitated the underground relocation of the food waste collection point, successfully mitigating issues related to odor, vermin, cleanliness, and aesthetics. As of today, the system remains in operation, ensuring a more hygienic and visually appealing environment.

Food waste in Japan

As of June 9, 2023, data from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries revealed that food loss and waste in Japan amounted to a staggering 5.23 million tons in fiscal 2021. This poses a significant problem for Japan, as disposed food that is still edible contributes to environmental issues, resource depletion, and economic losses. The need for sustainable waste management solutions has become crucial to mitigate these challenges.

Ten stories of food waste 

Palette Kumoji, with its ten stories and two underground basements, generated substantial food waste from both customers and various shops, including side dish kitchens, restaurants, bakeries, and fast-food stores.

The initial storage of waste on the ground level, exposed to Okinawa’s humid subtropical climate, led to issues such as odor, and pest infestations. To address these concerns, the decision to move the waste collection area underground became imperative.

Through IPROS, Japan’s largest B2B equipment database, Palette Kumoji discovered the LFC biodigester. The LFC biodigester stood out against competitors due to its compact onsite solution, low odors, data analytics capability, and minimal maintenance requirements. The department store planned on installing their onsite solution in a waste collection room that faced a customer parking section. 

What set the LFC biodigester apart was its inclusive lifetime access to the LFC cloud, a feature lacking in competitor offerings. Competitors also did not offer cloud management capabilities, particularly based on weight management with integrated sensors. There were also significant costs associated with monthly labor and maintenance costs of the competitor solutions. The LFC biodigester requires less maintenance costs than other competitors, and the ability to check input volume and operating status at any time via weight data leads to effective maintenance. The LFC biodigester not only outshone competitors in functionality but also in its economic viability, offering a comprehensive and technologically advanced waste management solution for Palette Kumoji.

LFC-200 biodigester sitting in the garbage room at at Palette Kumoji.

In May 2023, the LFC-200 biodigester was installed in a waste collection room with a controlled temperature of 20°C. The machine is fed waste between 10:00 to 23:00, operating continuously even during the night. This not only ensures efficient waste digestion but also contributes to a cleaner and odor-free environment even within the garbage collection point located in the customer parking area of the department store.

Naha City, the capital of the Okinawa prefecture, set a water effluent standard that dictates permissible levels for pH, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), chemical compounds, and minerals. Adhering to these regulations extends beyond mere compliance; it directly influences the well-being of Okinawa’s residents and the flourishing tourism industry that relies on the island’s pristine natural beauty.

Positive outcomes and future plans

The LFC biodigester complies with all of the water effluent regulations set by Naha City. This ensures that the waste management system not only addresses food waste but also adheres to environmental standards, contributing to the overall sustainability of Okinawa.

After achieving notable success with the LFC biodigester, Palette Kumoji (Kumoji Urban Development Co., Ltd.), embarked on a mission to share benefits of this innovative solution to businesses across Okinawa facing similar challenges.

Palette Kumoji assumed the role of the Okinawa regional sales agent for Niki Electronics, the exclusive importer of the biodigester.

This strategic move allowed them to not only promote the technology but also provide operational services for the equipment. Future plans include utilizing the biodigester to track CO2e diversion rates and creating sustainability reports, showcasing their commitment to environmental responsibility and waste reduction. The implementation of the LFC-200 biodigester at Palette Kumoji Department Store serves as a successful model for sustainable waste management, addressing the challenges posed by food waste in Japan.