BioCycle November 2010, Vol. 51, No. 11, p. 32
Low start-up costs and reduced trash pulls lead to significant savings for two hotels in New Jersey.
Molly Farrell Tucker
THE Hyatt Regency Princeton in New Jersey, saved more than $10,000 in 2009 by having its food scraps composted instead of landfilled. Like all of Hyatt’s 445 hotels and resorts, the Hyatt Regency Princeton has its own “Green Team” of staff from different sectors of the hotel, who train fellow employees on recycling procedures and look for new recycling, reduction and reuse opportunities. One member of that team, Charles Link, is the hotel’s Director of Engineering, and the driving force behind the food waste composting initiative.
In December 2007, Link attended a food waste recycling forum hosted by the Solid Waste Resource Renewal Group (SWRRG) of the Rutgers University (New Jersey) Agricultural Experiment Station. “I learned about the opportunity for the hotel to recycle food waste, and ways of enhancing our already established programs,” he says. At the forum, Link also learned about the Food and Organics Recycling for New Jersey (FOR NJ) Certification Process. FOR NJ is a coalition of retailers, restaurants, healthcare facilities, educational institutions, processors, regulators, councils, haulers, recyclers and residents that promotes organics diversion. To receive FOR NJ certification, the Hyatt had to complete these tasks: Conduct a waste and a purchasing audit; Become a partner of the U.S. EPA’s WasteWise Program and a member of FOR NJ; Contract with a hauler to collect the hotel’s food waste; and Host a WasteShed forum.
The Rutgers SWRRG and a consultant conducted the waste audit. It included collecting and weighing preconsumer and postconsumer food waste from the restaurant, in-room dining, bar and banquet operations. The hotel, which has 347 guest rooms, had already been recycling office paper, newspapers, magazines, cans, bottles, plastic, glass, aluminum and steel for several years, but had been using a separate compactor for paper and cardboard. The waste audit report recommended commingling paper and cardboard with the other recyclables in one compactor.
The purchasing audit examined the feasibility of using biodegradable cups in the employee cafeteria. “Unfortunately, we found out that it wouldn’t be cost-effective,” says Link.
The Hyatt contracted with Premier Food Waste Recycling, a subsidiary of Central Jersey Waste and Recycling, to haul its food waste. Materials accepted include food prep waste and all discarded food waste, including from the kitchen, restaurant, room service and banquet (unconsumed food and plate scrapings).
Premier services over 200 supermarkets, hospitals, prisons, colleges and hotels in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. At the Hyatt, 32-gallon blue totes are used to collect pre and postconsumer food waste. Premier provided the first 25 totes at no cost; the hotel purchased an additional 15. The food waste recycling program began in October 2008. Staff were trained on what was to be composted and recycled. Both the blue and green totes were labeled with illustrations, photos and written instructions in English, French and Spanish. “Due to the diversity of our employees, it was important to use pictures of what could be put in the containers, especially for food waste,” says Link.
The blue totes are lined with biodegradable liners and placed throughout the hotel’s kitchen, restaurant and employee cafeteria. Filled totes are stored in the loading dock area and are collected twice each week by Premier and hauled to Peninsula Compost Group’s Organic Recycling Center in Wilmington, Delaware for composting.
The hotel uses 96-gallon green totes for commingled recyclables. Small blue bins are kept next to all desks to recycle office paper. These bins are also emptied into the green totes. When full, the green totes are emptied into a compactor in the loading dock area. The compactor’s volume is 30 cubic yards and averages two to three tons of recyclables monthly.
Link notes that the total cost of setting up the food waste recycling program was $1,070. The 15 additional totes cost $1,000. Hotel staff made the signage at a cost of $20 and the biodegradable food waste liners cost $20/case (80 bags/case). Link reports that 21 tons of commingled recyclables (cans, bottles, glass, plastic, steel, aluminum, paper and cardboard) were recycled in 2009. “We saved $3,410 by keeping these recyclables out of the trash compactor,” he notes.
In January 2009, the Hyatt Regency Princeton became the first business in New Jersey to receive FOR NJ certification. Link says the hotel saved a total of $13,784 in 2009 by composting food waste and recycling. During that year, more than 131 tons of food waste were collected at the hotel and composted. Total savings were $10,374, he adds, including $7,624 by keeping food waste out of the trash compactor and $2,750 by reducing the number of trash compactor pulls.
Also in January 2009, Link hosted a WasteShed forum that had 69 attendees from Hyatt Hotels in New Jersey, along with staff from Rutgers University, Princeton University, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New York EPA Region 2, private companies, townships and hospitals. “At the forum, I shared our success story and tried to build a more compact hauling route for food waste,” he says. As a result of the forum, the Hyatt hotels in New Brunswick, Jersey City and Morristown began their own food waste collection programs.
The Hyatt Regency Princeton also recycles several other items. Used cooking grease is stored in 55-gallon drums and sold to Mopac, which recycles the grease for animal feed. Worn linens are used as rags by hotel staff. Used computer equipment is donated to nonprofits or sent for environmentally safe recycling/disposal. Empty toner cartridges, batteries, light bulbs and light ballasts are returned for recycling. The hotel discontinued daily newspaper delivery to every guestroom as of March 2008.
NEW BRUNSWICK HYATT FOLLOWS SUIT
Scott Stahl, Director of Engineering at the Hyatt Regency New Brunswick in New Brunswick, New Jersey initiated a food waste recycling program at that hotel after attending Link’s wasteshed forum in 2009. “As I explored how to proceed it became apparent that this was going to be an easy project to promote as it was a win-win situation,” says Stahl. “We could save the environment for future generations while creating an immediate positive impact on the financial bottom line.”
Stahl says the logistics of setting up the food waste collection program were simple. “We did a brief survey of the kitchen to see where the most waste was being generated to determine where the food totes should be located,” he says. “The next step was to explain the undertaking to our kitchen staff, how it worked and what the benefits would be.” The staff unanimously agreed to take part in the program, which began in April 2009.
In the beginning, staff sometimes put the wrong materials into the totes. “We retrained everyone for the first couple of weeks and this was resolved,” says Stahl. “We also have several ‘Champions’ who monitor the waste during walk-throughs of the kitchen.”
Stahl estimates that four tons of food waste are generated at the hotel each week. It is collected three times a week by Premier and delivered to Peninsula Compost. “Our program runs smoothly with the occasional retraining for employees,” he notes. “I highly recommend any facility to join in this program. We save approximately $100/ton on waste and reduced our trash pulls from weekly to once every three to four weeks.”
Molly Farrell Tucker is a Contributing Editor to BioCycle.