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Pulpers. A pulper is a disposer which, rather than dumping the waste slurry into the sewer system, operates in a self-contained environment. The waste is separated from the water with a piece of equipment called a water press, which extracts water from the waste while allowing water-soluble matter to be flushed down the drain. Waste odor is reduced significantly since many odor-causing materials, such as proteins and milk solids are, for the most part, washed away. The result from the water press is a damp, grayish, pulverized material that can then be removed from the building. Depending upon the makeup of your waste, this pulverized material can often be composted. There are vendors in many cities that will pick up the pulp and compost the material, sometimes at no cost to you. Your operation winds up saving money and helping the environment by reducing landfill waste at the same time.  

There are also elaborate pulper systems that transport the ground slurry mixture from the point of generation to a remote trash room. The water press is situated in the trash room, where the extracted waste is dumped directly into containers that can be removed from the premises. This engineered system saves some labor and can be much more sanitary than typical systems. However, the system needs to be well maintained, which is why it’s sometimes reluctantly recommended except in very large institutions.

Another advantage to pulpers is that they typically use less water than disposers because they recirculate most of the extracted water.  Recirculating allows a pulper to use only a small fraction of the water of a disposer.  In a dishroom, a large volume of water can flow in a dish trough to rinse dishes without dumping it all down the drain.

Scrapping collectors are made primarily for areas prohibiting disposers. The collector is, in simple terms, a perforated pot in a sink with water recirculating through it. Some units are made to fit the end of a dish trough and others are made to use as a scrapping sink. A good location for the collector is in a dish room where a trough is used to scrape dishes. The collector eliminates the additional time needed to scrap dishes into a garbage can and rinse them before washing. With a collector the entire dish-scrapping operation can be done in the dish trough. The perforated basket of the unit must be periodically removed and dumped in a garbage can. For the right application, collectors can be an inexpensive alternative to a costly pulper, although not nearly as effective in waste volume reduction.

Compostable Waste Decomposers. One of the newest items on the market is the compostable waste decomposer. This type of unit is essentially a large stainless steel box that takes pulped, compostable waste and in a period of usually less than 24 hours turns it into what is called a humus-rich soil amendment. That means it is similar to products you might buy for your home garden. The equipment does this change in waste by reducing volume and moisture and allowing natural organic decomposition to occur and speed up by applying heat to the material. In one type of unit, no other chemicals or enzymes are used. Other similar units use an enzyme mix to aid in the decomposition. This equipment is perfect for use in conjunction with a pulper to create a truly “green” waste reduction system in your establishment.

Waste disposers, pulpers and collectors are not the type of equipment every chef dreams of, but there are some advantages and cost savings that can be attributed to making proper choices in units. Disposal equipment can really reduce the amount of odor causing waste in trash bins or compactor/container units outside your establishment. The objective always is to reduce waste at the point it is generated in your kitchen.

Dan Bendall (dbendall@foodstrategy.com) is a principal of FoodStrategy, a firm specializing in planning foodservice facilities.