Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis generates lots of waste from its dining operations that in the past would all go into dumpsters, then to trash haulers paid to take it away.

Not good for the environment, or for finances.

Four years ago, the nutrition services department instituted a change, installing a protocol that has so far separated out some 75 tons of source-separated organic waste annually from the rest of the trash in the kitchen and dishroom.

The organics go into green colored containers that are then hauled out to a compactor sitting near the regular trash dumpsters where it is reduced and then hauled away to a special composting facility some 20 miles away. The compost is used in highway landscaping and other public projects.

“We did it primarily for the community and the environment,” says Bill Marks, director of dining and nutrition services, “but we do save some money as well on the tipping fee as well as other taxes levied on the regular trash but not on waste that goes to recycling.”

Marks explains that another savings is in water usage as the organic separation process eliminates the slurry into which four to five hundred patient trays were traditionally scraped after each meal period. That saves up to 1.5 million gallons a year. Furthermore, the elimination of scraping reduces the particulate percentage in the facility’s sewage, which affects sewage rates. “It has also reduced the number of drain clogs we get,” Marks observes.
Marks admits the monetary savings are not huge even in aggregate but is proud of the statement the department is making about environmental responsibility and sustainability.

“What excites me is not just that we started it but that we’re sustaining it for over four years now.”