A Prescription for Sustainability: Shady Grove Medical Center’s Diversion of Food Waste

March 5, 2024
Main entrance of Shady Grove Medical Center

ROCKVILLE, MD — Shady Grove Medical Center, a prominent 266 bed acute care facility in Rockville, Maryland, and part of the Adventist HealthCare system, has recently implemented an innovative waste management solution. In early 2024, the hospital installed a refurbished LFC-200 biodigester unit to address escalating waste management costs and comply with evolving environmental regulations.

Since its installation, the LFC-200 biodigester has made remarkable strides, successfully digesting over 31,000 lb (14,000 kg) of organic waste in under two months. This proactive measure has resulted in a substantial carbon footprint reduction of 58 tonnes CO2e, aligning with Shady Grove’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

LFC biodigester at Adventist HealthCare System

The decision to introduce the biodigester was influenced by the successful implementation of two LFC biodigester units at Shady Grove’s sister hospital, the White Oak Medical Center in Silver Spring.

The district manager overseeing both hospitals recognized the operational efficiency and environmental benefits of the technology, prompting the relocation of one unit to Shady Grove.

Woodlands Café, the primary kitchen at Shady Grove, caters to the daily culinary needs of 225 to 250 patients and visitors, as well as providing catering services. The district manager sought a sustainable solution to address the expense associated with traditional methods for waste disposal. The current waste strategy at Shady Grove utilized compactors to crush waste that is later picked up by a third party. To mitigate contamination and odor issues, food waste from patient trays and the cafeteria is meticulously separated into a trough and kept in a separate trash area.

Compliance with Maryland Food Waste Regulations:

The decision to reactivate the LFC-200 biodigester was accelerated by Maryland’s new regulation on food scraps diversion, effective January 1, 2023. This legislation mandates food scraps diversion for businesses, institutional cafeterias, convenience stores, mini-marts, supermarkets, and schools, both public and private. 

Shady Grove Medical Center reached out to Power Knot, the manufacturer of the LFC biodigester, to refurbish and reinstall the unit. The machine was shipped to Power Knot HQ in California, underwent necessary repairs and refurbishment, and was then seamlessly integrated into the dish room of the hospital’s main kitchen.

In its new location, the LFC biodigester efficiently processes both pre-consumer waste (prep waste) and post-consumer waste (patient and cafeteria waste). The waste is scraped into a trough and then deposited into the LFC biodigester. 

“The LFC biodigester has changed the way we handle food waste,” said Nick Haller, Executive Chef and Operations Manager at Shady Grove Medical Center. “The machine eats all the post consumer organic waste and has greatly reduced the amount of trash we create on a daily basis.”

In the month of February 2024, the biodigester digested an average of 620 lb (280 kg) of waste per day, making a significant impact on Shady Grove’s overall waste reduction efforts. This notable achievement not only reduces the hospital’s environmental impact but also markedly decreases the volume of waste requiring third-party management services, leading to significant cost savings for Shady Grove Medical Center.

Kitchen staff of Shady Grove Medical Center pose in front of the LFC biodigester