At least four companies in the United States are making it easy for hotels to dramatically reduce food waste volume by up to 90 percent.

The decomposition machines they make, which are available in different sizes, can significantly reduce waste hauling costs and the volume of waste typically sent to the landfill.

For the environment, there are additional benefits because fewer trucks have to roll and less waste sits in the landfill producing methane -- a greenhouse gas. Food waste decomposition machines can be pricey but when used regularly can pay for themselves in three to five years. Lease options are also available.

Each manufacturer offers its own unique product but there are two types of machines to consider. The first type, distributed by Lancaster, Pa.-based Somat Co., relies on 180-degree heat, agitation (mixing) and natural composting to reduce food waste volume. No enzymes, microorganisms or additives are used in the treatment process. No water lines are necessary to add water to the waste mix. A condensate drain allows a small amount of clean water to leave the system.

"It is the only system that does not require enzymes or fresh water," said Lin Sensenig, general manager at Somat Co.

Available in Different Sizes

Somat manufactures its eCorect systems in different sizes. The smallest system can handle up to 100 pounds a cycle; the largest system can manage 2,000 pounds a cycle. In less than a day, processing removes about 90 percent of the food waste's weight and volume. What is left is a dry product that can be added to soil. All eCorect systems include an odor control system that allows placement of the machines close to the source of the waste.

Green Key Environmental Solutions' decomposition machine.
Green Key Environmental Solutions' decomposition machine.
The Marriott South Bay in Torrance, Calif., has been using an eCorect system from Somat for six months.

Silvano Merlo, assistant general manager at the property, said that instead of having to throw away 220 pounds of food waste at the end of the day, his staff throws away just 22 pounds.

Merlo and his team throw in all types of food items including meat and even small amounts of cardboard and paper. Fish-size bones can be composted but larger beef bones are not affected by the machine. Merlo says the system has helped make his staff more conscious about what is thrown away.

"It is good for the environment and gets everyone involved," says Merlo, who adds that the only maintenance concern is to clean a filter every other day.

Alternative to Somat's Technology

The second type of machine, like those sold by BioHitech America Inc., Montvale, N.J., use a highly refined formula of micro-organisms to break down organic waste into a liquid which can then be safely disposed of down the drain, completely eliminating the waste. The machines require a hot and cold water supply and a two-inch drain to connect to the machine. The drain pipe from the machine drains into