The Town and Country Resort and Convention Center in San Diego joined the City’s Food Waste Composting Program in 2014. About 200 tons/year are currently diverted.
BioCycle March/April 2016
In 2014, the hotel revamped its recycling program and joined the City of San Diego’s (City) Commercial Food Waste Composting Program. At that time, the hotel was at 32 percent waste diversion, missing a variety of diversion opportunities. The hotel team worked with the City’s Environmental Specialist on first enhancing and implementing a comprehensive and convenient recycling program for hotel employees, guests and visitors. Once the recycling program was in place and in full compliance with California Assembly Bill 341 and the City’s Recycling Ordinance, the group started to work on logistics for food scraps diversion.
The Town & Country averages service of 2,500 meals/day (which can peak at 6,000 meals/day, depending on the season and events it is hosting), prepared in its four kitchens, and served at its three restaurants, room services, and special events. Factors taken into consideration by the City when determining food scraps collection logistics for hotels include generation volume, size of the kitchens, proximity to the loading dock, space for containers at the loading dock, and in the storage area, connection for compactors, exposure to sun, proximity to where guests will be passing by, cost-effectiveness and potential for vectors (e.g., birds, wildlife).
Some hotels collect directly from the kitchen in 32-gallon (gal) carts that are serviced by the hauler. Others may collect in smaller buckets and empty them into a 32-gal cart or directly into a dumpster. The Town & Country, due to its food scraps volume, and the storage area being very visible and close to guest traffic (located between the parking lot and the conference rooms), opted to use a smaller, 15-cubic yard compactor that is hauled to the City’s Miramar Greenery composting facility once a week at a minimum (once/week hauling is required by the City’s program).
Well-marked, lockable, green 32-gal carts are used to collect food scraps from prep and dishwashing areas. The green carts are located next to 32-gal blue carts for recycling and black for trash. All food scraps, along with coffee grounds and coffee filters, parchment paper, napkins from the plates that are scraped, and paper towels from the kitchen, are accepted. The program does not accept soiled paper or compostable kitchenware, tableware or bags. Postconsumer food scraps (e.g., plate scrapings) sorted by hotel staff also are diverted; collection of postconsumer food scraps separated by the guests or at events is not allowed. That is to assure that the City’s food scraps program participants stay within the one percent contamination threshold for loads diverted to the Miramar Greenery. The City’s Environmental Specialist trained the Town & Country’s steward and kitchen staff on recycling and food scraps sorting.
Food scraps carts are emptied into the compactor by an automatic arm lift. The compactor is connected to the sewer. The carts are not lined, and once emptied, are washed by the hotel staff at their mop sink or by the dishwashing drain in the kitchen area before being returned to the kitchens. The connection with the sewer helps eliminate liquids in the loads brought to the Miramar Greenery, which can accept “soupy” but not liquid loads as the facility is on top of a closed landfill.
Minimizing ContaminationThe City’s Miramar Greenery composts using open windrows. Some windrows are composed of just ground yard trimmings, and some are mixes of food scraps and ground yard trimmings. The Greenery is centrally located in the City, in close proximity to residential and commercial areas, and next to an airport runway. This combination of location and composting method doesn’t allow time and space to sort out contamination without creating an odor issue for nearby residents and businesses and attracting birds that would be hazardous to aircraft — hence the program’s one percent contamination threshold for food scraps program participants.
As part of the City’s composting program, the Town & Country completed a probationary period where its food scraps loads had to be inspected at the Greenery by hotel staff and the City’s Environmental Specialist. This probationary period allows City and hotel staff to identify contamination issues and their origin, and work with specific staff groups in order to eliminate any problems.
With implementation of the comprehensive recycling and the food scraps composting program, the Town & Country’s waste diversion has jumped to 65 percent. It is currently source separating close to 200 tons of food scraps a year, saving approximately $5,500 in tipping fees, which offsets the costs of the additional compactor and hauling services. Staff is still working on improving the diversion rate by increasing collection of recyclables as well as food donation. The hotel has a small food donation program, partnering with local Chefs to End Hunger to donate prepared surplus food from banquets. Its produce purveyor picks up the food to be donated when it makes produce deliveries to the Town & Country.
Ana Carvalho is an Environmental Specialist with the City of San Diego (CA) Environmental Services Department.