November 2, 2019

Food Waste Being Recycled with “Stomach” Machine in Dubai

By Sajila Saseendran, Senior Reporter

Dubai Central Lab says process turns waste into grey water and saves money, time.

The article was originally published in Gulf News.

Dubai: The Dubai Central Lab is promoting eco-friendly recycling of food waste by using a machine that can “digest food like the human stomach” and turn it into grey water.

Officials told Gulf News that a liquid food composter (LFC) manufactured by a private company works like the stomach and uses certain enzymes and bacteria to recycle food waste with a little bit of water in a process similar to digestion and turns it into grey water. The machine does not produce any foul smell of the waste and helps in reducing CO2 emission, officials said.

Maha Suwekeet Al Hajri, food and environment laboratory section manager, said the lab under Dubai Municipality opted for using the machine LFC after successfully completing a six-month trial period facilitated by the company Power Knot.

In those six months, the machine recycled more than 3,000kg of food waste and reduced nearly 13 tonnes of carbon footprint.

Al Hajri said the lab receives 200-300 food samples daily and about 4,000 samples per month. It conducts over 30,000 tests for food and environment-related materials per month. Last year, DCL conducted a total of more than a million tests.

“We have a lot of wasted food [after samples are tested],” she said. “When we thought of how to discard it safely, we thought of recycling it,” she said.

Fatima Hassan Alobaidli, head of sample management unit, said the department chose the aerobic bio-digester to dispose off food waste safely and cost effectively.

“Once the chemistry and microbiology tests are done, we discard the food samples. If they are found unfit with heavy metal or other contamination, we dispose them to the hazardous waste treatment unit. But the majority of the food items are safe and we wanted to dispose them in a sustainable way instead of sending them to the landfill. Hence we chose this machine,” Al Obaidli said.

How it works

Al Obaili said: “What happens in the stomach is happening inside the composter with enzymes and bacteria.”

Food with high fat and more oil needs more time to be processed in the machine just like in the stomach.

“The food items deposited in the machine gets digested [or rather recycled] and what comes out is grey water that is safe to be sent to the drainage.”

The grey water was tested and was analysed by the Environment Department which approved it to be safe for disposing in the drainage.

“All information related to samples go to the cloud and you can see all the data anytime. It is easy to maintain and the enzymes last for a year. But the bacteria cannot live without food for 10 days, so you need to keep feeding it with food waste.”

Following the successful trial, DCL purchased the machine to recycle the food waste and support Dubai’s goal of diverting 75 percent of the waste from landfill by the year 2021, said Al Obaidli.

The Waste Management Department has also assessed that the machine helps save Dh400 as a result of diverting waste from landfill.

DCL’s future plan includes using filters to purify the grey water to reuse it for running the machine itself or for landscape irrigation.

Officials urged hotels and hospitals to use the machine, which is said to cost Dh80,000 to Dh100,000 depending on the models, for long-term benefits.