Ryan Westerman, food and beverage manager at Laguna Pueblo’s Dancing Eagle Casino, said the trash bins there have been filling up at about one third their normal rate since mid-June after installing a new food-recycling technology.
The machine, which looks like a large dishwasher, has converted about 600 pounds of food scraps to 60 pounds of compost that Laguna Development Corp. plans to use for landscaping, and later for commercial sale.
“We have about 30 trash bins that usually fill up three times a day, but now we’re using just one trash bag daily in each bin because all the food scraps are fed into the machine,” Westerman said. “It’s pretty amazing how well the technology is working. We’ve nicknamed it ‘The Pig.'”
Laguna is installing three more machines at Route 66 Casino, and at a pueblo-run grocery store, to process a total of bout 1,400 pounds of food scraps per day. The four machines together cost about $160,000, but the pueblo expects the investment to pay for itself within three years.
“The savings in waste management alone will produce a full return on investment, and we can get into the business of selling compost to turn this into a revenue generator,” said Skip Sayre, head of sales and marketing for Laguna Development Corp.
Integrated Veterans Services LLC, a veteran-owned business in Santa Fe, began selling the machines nationwide last year. The company formed a partnership with the South Korean firm ENIC Inc., whose owner, Myeong Yurl Lee, invented the food-recycling technology.
The machine, called the Ecovim, uses heat to dehydrate food scraps. It uses no chemicals, microorganisms or water, making it an environmentally friendly recycling process. The only end products are the compost, and a small amount of sterilized water, which can be reused for irrigation or filtered for human consumption.
“It’s a full circle, sustainable recycling product that takes food waste and turns it into compost to grow food again,” said Integrated Veteran senior account manager Danny Maki.
The Ecovim reduces food scraps to just 10 percent of their original volume. It produces about one gallon of water for every 10 pounds of waste. Machines range in size from ones that can process 66 pounds to units that handle 3,300 pounds.
Reducing food waste is a growing concern nationwide, because food scraps make up about 21 percent of all garbage going into landfills annually.
Integrated Veteran Services has installed 20 units at U.S. military installations, and 14 at universities and colleges around the country. Santa Fe Public Schools is now testing the system for possible installation at its 38 schools, Maki said.