The jaws of a shiny, large bin open wide with hunger in chef Mark Normoyle’s major hotel and restaurant complex in Melbourne. Regular feedings of this mechanical beast are fueling savings for both restaurants and the city. The Organic Refuse Conversion Alternative machine, called ORCA by many, is the latest technology to increase sustainability by decreasing waste in the hospitality industry.
Nearly 40 percent of food in the United States is discarded as waste. Common efforts to reduce this include buying food in smaller quantities, careful menu planning, and tracking expiration dates using smart technology. While strategies like these may reduce the amount of food there is to throw away in restaurants, they do not offer green solutions for the food that still must be thrown out.
Instead of sending food to rot in landfills, ORCA machines turn food waste into nutrient-rich water through “aerobic digestion.” By functioning as mechanical digesters, these machines reduce organic waste in landfills, as well as the amount of trash restaurants put out for collection. This reduces waste both by restricting the amount of trash created and by minimizing the energy used up in trash removal and waste management facilities.
ORCA machines have proven so effective and sustainable that many restaurants in New York City are now required to use them. Many other restaurants have also adopted the technology, including Agua Caliente Casino, Vanderbilt University, and several Hilton Hotels & Resorts.
These hotels report significant savings and results. For example, Judy Pines, who works for Hilton directing sustainability initiatives says of Millennium Hilton in New York: “with the digester, the hotel diverts about 7 tons of hotel restaurant organic waste from landfill per month, which results in a cost savings of approximately 18 percent per month.”
Using ORCA machines and other strategies like software for managing inventory efficiently, the restaurant industry is slimming its waste production to yield greater sustainability and savings.