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Business Excellence Series – Sustainability: Closing the loop on organic waste

How composting has become a sustainable solution for local business
Trafalgars Bistro and Sweet Obsession Cakes and Pastries partners Lorne Tyczenski and Stephen Greenham with a GreenGood composter: “we decided to be more responsible about the way we run our food service business”

Two Vancouver restaurants, Trafalgars Bistro and Sweet Obsession Cakes and Pastries, are feeding the land instead of the landfill by implementing an onsite, closed-loop organic waste composting program.

By collaborating with GreenGood Composter, Inner City Farms and Urban Impact recycling, the restaurant and bakery have eliminated 100% of the organic waste that used to go to the landfill. Now they recycle 98% of their remaining garbage and the organic waste is composted onsite before it is taken away to be used in the soil of local farmlands.

Sustainability of its products and systems are front of mind for restaurant co-owners Stephen Greenham and Lorne Tyczenski. The bistro uses sustainable products from the Pacific Northwest while the bakery next door makes its treats without any stabilizers, preservatives, artificial colour or flavourings. 

“We decided to be more responsible about the way we run our food service business and started by offering recyclable containers several years ago,” said Greenham. “We connected with Inner City Farms who told us about the GreenGood Composter. We had been recycling everything but our organic waste for several years and this machine allows us to implement a closed-loop system.”

In September the two eateries installed a GreenGood GG-50 composting machine; it composts organic waste in 24 hours and reduces food waste by 90% to 95% of its original volume. In four months, the restaurant went from filling an industrial-sized dumpster four times a week to a half-full plastic grocery bag.

“Organic waste is very bad for the landfill,” said Brian Leung, co-owner of GreenGood. “It needs a microbial process in order to break down. When organic waste is delivered to the landfill, it is not aerated, which is bad on the environment as it generates toxic levels of methane gas.”

Traditional organic waste composting requires worms, layering and turning the rotting material several times, dealing with fruit flies, bad odour and at least 30 days to decompose.

The GreenGood Composter is an aerobic composting machine that processes food waste within 24 hours, down to 90% of its original volume.

“Food waste and meat products are very high in water content and can be composted within 12 to 24 hours using a microbial process,” said Leung. The composter has charcoal filters to ensure there are no odours, and it is scalable from household and commercial to industrial use.

Restaurant staff had already been separating its non-organic waste for years. “Once we became committed to investigating its practicality and cost-effectiveness, we weighed the organic waste before putting it in the dumpster and got everyone on board by separating the recyclables into different containers,” said Tyczenski. They separated waste into eight different disposal streams: returnable containers, hard plastics, soft plastics, glass, paper, metal cardboard and organics.

Then the question remains, what to do with the compost? To close the loop, once a week Inner City Farms picks up approximately 240 kilograms of compost from Trafalgars and Sweet Obesession, and distributes the nutrient-rich compost for use in the soil of neighbourhood farms throughout the city. Anything that’s not organic gets collected by Urban Impact and ABD Solutions to be recycled.

The brainchild of five friends, Inner City Farms is a Vancouver-based urban agriculture collective that grows vegetables, fruit and herbs in neglected garden spaces and residential lawns and converts them into small-scale organic farms throughout the city. Then they distribute the food back to the community.

Inner City sells “shares” to local families; each share translates to weekly boxes of produce that can feed a family of four, delivered from June to late October – up to 1,300 boxes of organic produce annually.

“Last year, we sold 50 shares of vegetables,” said co-founder Will Valley. “This year, we’re looking at selling 60 shares as well as selling to chefs from local restaurants. They get really excited about being able to use our products because the vegetables taste better and their dishes taste better.”

In addition to the ecofriendly solution, Trafalgars and Sweet Obsession have experienced significant savings in waste- removal costs, and the composter will pay for itself in approximately two years. 

“Ultimately the GreenGood Composter saves money,” said Greenham. “We used to pay $900 every month to empty the dumpster of garbage and organic waste. Now we pay $100 on extra power every month, but save $800 on the dumpster fees.”