Ma­chines that turn com­mer­cial food waste into smart garbage

Web-con­nected di­gesters re­duce waste and sup­ply use­ful feed­back “It oc­curred to me that waste was valu­able”

Bloomberg Businessweek (Europe) - - CONTENTS -

When Dunkin’ Donuts fran­chise owner Bill Mul­hol­land wanted to re­duce costs, he took a closer look at his garbage. About a year ago, he got a deal on a $400-a-month bio-di­gester—a com­mer­cial, dish­washer-size steel box filled with bac­te­ria that con­verts food waste into sewage—from BioHiTech, a maker of the ma­chines. Mul­hol­land, who’d heard about the di­gester from a friend, also liked the idea of help­ing the en­vi­ron­ment by cut­ting down on garbage. Be­sides shav­ing a bit off his $550 monthly trash-haul­ing costs, the web-con­nected ma­chine pro­vides Mul­hol­land with in­for­ma­tion to help him bet­ter run his busi­ness. “If we don’t have enough waste run­ning through the ma­chine, I know we don’t have enough prod­uct,” he says. “If we have too much, we are over­bak­ing. I re­ally can see from afar if my store man­agers are do­ing a good job.”

Ex­tract­ing in­for­ma­tion from garbage was just what Frank Celli, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of BioHiTech, was af­ter when he and his team de­vised a way to make the ma­chines smart. “It oc­curred to me that waste was valu­able,” says Celli, who as a teenager worked in his fam­ily’s garbage-haul­ing busi­ness in New York’s Hud­son Val­ley. He could tell a lot about cus­tomers from their trash.

BioHiTech started de­vel­op­ing the web-con­nected di­gesters in 2013, adding an In­tel pro­ces­sor, spe­cial soft­ware, and con­nec­tiv­ity, and it be­gan mar­ket­ing the units in 2014. Since then, the com­pany and a hand­ful of com­peti­tors, in­clud­ing San Jose-based Power Knot and Canada’s To­tally Green, have per­suaded hun­dreds of busi­nesses across the U.S., from Hil­ton Ho­tels to the Cheese­cake Fac­tory to the U.S. Army, to buy the units. Busi­ness own­ers and man­agers can track, via PC or a mo­bile app, how fre­quently the di­gesters are used, how much waste is di­gested, even which sup­plier the waste comes from. “It al­lows us to pro­vide our cus­tomers with a level of trans­parency they can’t re­ceive any­where else,” Celli says.

The com­pa­nies sell and lease the ma­chines. BioHiTech’s leas­ing fees range from $6,000 to $13,000 a year,

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