December 17, 2019

Biodigestion the Bottom Line for Fujitsu’s Food Waste Management

by Keith Barker

The article was originally published in Recycling Product News.

Power Knot LFC-70 biodigester saves $1,000 monthly for corporate giant

At Fujitsu America’s Silicon Valley campus, home of the company’s U.S. headquarters (located north of San Jose, California) a Power Knot LFC biodigester is transforming their approach to food waste, processing organics onsite into valuable compost.

Fujitsu’s Silicon Valley Campus was producing a total food waste volume of 100 lbs/day, which required costly trash pickups, five times a week. Their organic waste collection bill were approximately $12,000 annually, with price increases projected.

According to the company, with the installation of their Power Knot LFC 70 biodigester, it enabled Fujitsu to immediately comply with regulations and the investment paid for itself within 12 months. Since its installation, the LFC biodigester has saved Fujitsu approximately $70,000, diverted about 200,000 pounds of waste food from the landfil, and has offset CO2 emissions by about 350 tonnes.

The full story
Fujitsu’s park-like campus of 450,000 square feet of office space in seven buildings is set on 33 acres with 800 trees dotted across the landscape. It’s an unusually green and serene space in an otherwise busy Silicon Valley whose skyline now includes much taller buildings.

The company says they have a long-standing commitment to minimizing their environmental impact through adoption of energy-saving measures, and long before they were popular in corporate America. For example, occupancy sensors to turn off lighting in vacant meeting rooms and offices were installed years before these were required by law.

The company’s Silicon Valley campus has transitioned to 100 percent renewable energy, switched to LED lighting where possible, and eliminated disposable plastics from its cafeteria. But for Environmental, Health, Safety & Security Services Specialist Robert Curtis, food waste was a particularly challenging problem.

“We have a busy kitchen that preps, cooks and serves food for our employee cafeteria. Monday through Friday, we tipped at least 50 pounds of food waste per day into our mixed trash dumpster. That’s a messy and smelly problem—not to mention a target for pests and rodents—so that dumpster was emptied by our local trash company every day,” recalls Curtis.

The increasing cost of trash pickup and the environmental impact of waste food were major concerns for Curtis. Additionally, stringent statewide and local regulations were looming. The new laws mandated that businesses recycle all their organic waste by separating it from other waste streams and diverting it to local composting facilities. It was time to take action.

“We considered various methods to convert our waste food into compost for use onsite, but these all required constant tending to and considerable manual effort. This led is to evaluate machines capable of recycling all the food waste in the kitchen itself, which would reduce labor costs, eliminate collection costs, and enable us to comply with the law,” said Curtis.

After seeing the Power Knot LFC biodigester at a trade show, Curtis realized it represented the best solution as it delivered both environmental and economic benefits by processing the company’s organic waste onsite and preventing it from being mixed with other waste.

“We realized that the Power Knot LFC biodigester could transform our approach to food waste. Not only is it more environmentally sound than sending our food waste to the landfill, it pencils out financially. Our initial calculations predicted a positive ROI within 18 months by reducing our trash pickup from five to three days per week,” said Curtis. “In fact, looking back, it probably paid for itself even sooner because trash pick-up rates went up soon after we installed it—and they’ve continued to increase since then.”

Fujitsu took delivery of the Power Knot LFC-70 biodigester in 2011 and installed it in the kitchen of Fujitsu’s onsite cafeteria. The LFC biodigester uses a mix of natural microbes and enzymes to aerobically convert biodegradable food waste into grey water that drains into municipal waste lines. The control panel allows operators to control rotation times and amount of water used, as well as putting the machine into a manual mode to view any objects that should not be in the machine. The panel also indicates the drum temperature which is important for understanding optimum digestion.

Since its installation, conservative estimates are that is has reliably and quietly processed thousands of pounds of food waste from the kitchen. But its contribution to the environment has been much greater, with 350 tonnes of carbon dioxide offset through onsite recycling of food waste at Fujitsu’s campus.

IN BRIEF

  • Fujitsu’s corporate cafeteria serves 150-200 meals daily to 600 onsite employees.
  • Statewide mandatory commercial recycling program requires businesses to separate organic waste for dedicated pick-up.
  • Total food waste volume of 100 lbs/day required costly trash pickups, five times a week.
  • Organic waste collection bill of $12,000 annually, with price increases projected.

PLANET-SMART SOLUTION

  • Power Knot LFC-70 biodigester enabled Fujitsu to immediately comply with regulations and paid for itself within 12 months.
  • Since its installation, the LFC biodigester has saved Fujitsu approximately $70,000, diverted about 200,000 lbs of waste food from the landfill, and has offset CO2 emissions by about 350 tonnes.