Who are you?
David Wheatley, Green Guild project manager at the Liverpool Guild of Students.
What did you buy?
Tidy Planet’s A700 Rocket food waste composter – a 240V automatically controlled and intermittently aerated vessel. The equipment is designed for on-site recycling of organic waste from catering or food service facilities.
This particular model is able to process up to 700 litres a week of such waste. But we also invested in the company’s Dehydra food waste dewaterer to further maximise this capacity, taking this up to 2,100 litres.
The dewatering element of the process can be supplied as a retrofit unit. It optimises the moisture content of food waste so that the feedstock entering the composter will output a nutrient-rich, high-quality compost product.
Why did you buy it?
Green Guild is passionate about promoting sustainability to university students and boosting recycling rates, so we wanted to implement an initiative that would have a lasting impact. Given that food waste accounts for 10% of our overall waste figures, it was important that we found a way to optimise it as a useful resource.
At the students’ union, we also have roof gardens and cultivation plots which are used to grow vegetables by student volunteers. So having an on-site composting facility enables us to close the loop in our food waste management model, as well as working as an educational waste-awareness tool.
What were your criteria?
We wanted a solution that would demonstrate an effective circular economy: that food which is grown, served and eaten at the Guild is also recovered successfully to grow more organic produce for the campus canteen.
How did you research your purchase?
In the weekly newsletter from the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges, I saw that Salford University had invested in composting technology to harness its food waste as a resource. So I contacted them to organise a visit by staff from the Guild and our catering team to see a Tidy Planet Rocket composter in action.
We also used a flowchart tool to help us decide, answering questions about our waste requirements and preferences, so we could determine which kind of technology would best suit our needs.
How many options did you consider and what were they?
We did lots of research, including looking at options for on-site anaerobic digestion, but we could not do this due to potential odour issues.
After seeing the Rocket composter in action in Salford, we opted for this option straight away. Composters are commonly associated with agriculture, but the fact that we can compost in the middle of a metropolitan city is incredible – a prime example of urban farming.
What did the equipment have to achieve?
The equipment needed to provide an easy-to-use, low-maintenance and cost-effective solution for Green Guild’s food waste. Its aim was to reduce our food waste recycling rate and, since installing the technology, around nine tonnes of food waste have been composted to date.
In addition, by removing food waste from the residual waste stream, we have also been able to reduce the number of general waste bins on-campus, replacing them with dry mixed recycling alternatives.
This has not only affected our carbon footprint positively with fewer collections, but our disposal costs have also been greatly reduced.
Were there any particular challenges to finding the right equipment?
Working in the education sector, the main challenge was finding a solution that would pose no health and safety risks to staff or students, as well as require minimum maintenance and servicing.
How does the equipment fit in with the university’s plans?
The successful installation of the Rocket means we can continue to be recognised as driving sustainability in the education sector. The composting technology has attracted interest from other universities, international industrial organisations, local schools and the NHS into undertaking their own fact-finding visits.
Our overall waste recycling rates have doubled since investing in the composter, and we have also received a stream of awards: most recently we were shortlisted as a finalist in the Food and Healthy Eating category of The Green Gown Awards.
Is the equipment future-proofed?
Yes – we feel that we are ahead of the game in being able to demonstrate food waste sustainability and resource security on-campus.
There is no hiding away from the fact that food waste legislation is tightening and, with the Government’s focus on curbing plastics waste, it is only a matter of time before the same applies to organics as well.