Industrial Organic Waste Recycling: An Introduction

From food waste to left over ingredients, organic waste is a broad category covering all biodegradable plant or animal based materials. Here is an introduction to how we determine the optimal organic waste recycling solutions for various food, beverage, bakery, and other manufacturing companies.

Available Outlets

The main outlets we use for recycling industrial scale organic waste are animal feed, composting, anaerobic digestion, and rendering.

  • Animal Feed – By this, we don’t mean the kind of food you buy your cat or dog at the pet store. Instead, some non-hazardous organic waste, with appropriate amounts of specific nutrients, can be used by certain types of animal farms or feed producers for livestock. Animal feed is usually going to be the most profitable outlet for organic waste.
  • Composting – This is a broad term used to define many methods of breaking down organic matter to be used as fertilizer. While any organic waste is biodegradable, certain composting methods prove more efficient for different organic waste types.
  • Anaerobic Digestion – This process involves using anaerobic microbes (those that exist and grow in environments without oxygen) to transform organic waste into energy. During the anaerobic digestion process, the microbes naturally produce energy from the heat and gas byproducts of their decomposition.
  • Rendering – This process is used specifically for turning waste animal tissue into valuable materials. The byproducts of rendering can be used to make items such as soap, biodiesel, animal feed, feedstock for the chemical industry, and more.

Key Factors

Here is an overview of some major considerations that go into developing recycling solutions for organic waste:

1. Nutrient Content – The nutritional make up of organic waste can have a huge impact on its value. For instance, if farms or animal feed manufacturers are using the waste, they may request information regarding its nutritional composition in order to insure the ingredients they purchase meet specific nutritional requirements for the livestock they are trying to feed.

2. Moisture Level – Dry organic waste tends to be more valuable than wet waste. This is because excess water adds non-valuable weight to waste loads, which leads to more costly transportation and processing.

3. Potential Pathogens – Sometimes harmful organisms, or pathogens (such as E. Coli) are carried in organic waste. Before such organic waste can be safely used by humans or consumed by animals, it may need to undergo additional sanitation procedures.  For instance, if certain potentially harmful waste goes to an animal feed manufacturer for recycling, we like to insure the waste materials are heated to a sterilizing temperature of at least 195 degrees Fahrenheit during the recycling process.

4. Potential Meat Ingredients – Aside from the possibility of carrying pathogens, organic waste containing meat is more difficult to recycle because it cannot be included in all animal feed types. For instance, ruminants, such as cows, should not eat meat. Therefore meat cannot be included in the waste sent to cattle farms or cattle feed manufacturers.

5. Energy Value – Typically higher energy organic waste is considered more valuable than that with less energy values, and while energy values are not necessarily important to all organic waste recycling outlets, they are important when sending materials for anaerobic digestion. This is especially true in instances where an anaerobic digester is attempting to reach specific energy outputs every month. Examples of high energy organic waste include fats, oils, and grease (FOG).

6. Packaging – Unless the packaging can be ingested and/or is biodegradable, it is another thing which must be considered when selecting a recycling outlet. For instance, if a waste item contains packaging with plastic or metal, this packaging must be removed prior to animal feed production, composting, anaerobic digestion, or rendering. Some recycling facilities have developed specialized de-packaging processes to meet these needs. However, not every outlet is capable of accepting packaged organic waste for recycling.

7. Transportation Requirements – Our ability to provide recycling solutions for any material depends on our ability to efficiently transport that material to an appropriate recycling outlet. However, not every organic waste requires the same recycling solution and not every recycling solution is available in every geographic location. Sometimes transportation costs and requirements may dictate whether or not one recycling solution is more practical than another for a particular company or facility location.

This is just an brief introduction to how we determine industrial organic recycling solutions for our clients. For more information on our services, and to learn how we can help your company recycle more and landfill less, contact us today.