A sleek, tall box the size of a refrigerator sits outside your back door. Every morning after breakfast you empty the leftovers into a drawer on the side of this appliance. You close the drawer and press a button on the touch screen that says "start." That evening you cook your dinner on a gas stove, fueled by a line that runs from the same machine that you emptied your breakfast into. After dinner, you retrieve a bag full of a soft, clay-like substance from the back of the appliance, and empty it gently around the plants in your vegetable garden. A few weeks later when you pick your tomatoes, they are a bright red and taste sweeter than any tomato you've had before.
If you haven't heard, the world, and especially America, has a food waste problem. 24% of all the food produced in the world never gets eaten, and in America its as high as 40%. The vast majority of this food waste ends up in a landfill, where it releases methane emissions that contribute more to climate change than all the fossil fuels burned in India.
But until now there hasn't been an easy solution to this problem.
The bulk of this food waste is created by consumers, especially in restaurants. But even though they are the biggest culprit, restaurants have the fewest options for recycling the food waste produced on their premises. While many of us might think composting is an easy way to recycle food scraps, its not quite so simple. Food waste is much harder for an industrial compost facility to manage, because it contains a lot of water - much more than yard trimmings, for example. That water makes it hard to aerate the pile, leading to the stink that comes from compost gone bad. It may surprise you to learn that, as a result, most compost facilities don't accept food scraps. For the few that do, their operations are more expensive, so they charge a higher "tipping fee." The only alternative for the garbage man, then, is to dump those food scraps in a landfill.
The Everflux ACU (Airless Compost Unit) changes all that. By making it user friendly and automated, the AC can be located at the site where food waste is produced, eliminating the need for a garbage man to pick it up. And although there is currently very little financial incentive for restaurants to separate their food scraps, doing so to feed the Everflux ACU will save restaurants up to 25% off their monthly garbage bill.
This isn't a fire sale. It's just a more efficient way of using our resources.
So why is it an "airless composter," you might ask? By putting food waste into an air-tight container, and heating it to 55 degrees C (131 F) we can induce a natural, biological reaction that produces renewable natural gas, or "biogas." This gas can be used for all the same things natural gas can - and is especially useful to a restaurant, where cooking and water heating use a lot of energy. It also produces an organic fertilizer with a much higher nitrogen content than regular compost.
Suddenly restaurants, supermarkets, and other large food wasters will become renewable energy pioneers, and producers of a rich organic fertilizer that will be readily available in large supplies for local farms, urban gardeners and greenhouses. The Everflux ACU could not only transform our waste disposal system, but it could also speed the adoption of more sustainable farming practices and build stronger relationships between restaurants and farmers; between consumers and their food. With the higher yields that an organic nitrogen fertilizer could provide, maybe we can feed the world with just organic farming after all.
And although we are starting with restaurants, my hope is to someday make that vision of the Everflux ACU in your backyard - powering your own self sustaining and nourishing lifestyle - into a reality. Please vote for Everflux in Tech.Co's Startup of the Year competition so we can do just that.
About the Author
Daniel Enking is the founder of Everflux Technologies. He is a life-long environmentalist and practical dreamer who is obsessed with resource efficiency and imaged an "everything recycling machine" at age 10.