Biodigester Handles New York Food Distributor’s Organic Waste

Faced with New York City's stringent commercial recycling laws as part of its “Zero Waste Design Guidelines,” Jersey Lynne Farms composts its solid food waste into drain-safe wastewater on site.

Jersey Lynne Farms, a family-owned wholesale food distributor in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, NY, provides milk, eggs, butter, frozen foods, and other perishables to independent supermarkets and mom-and-pop grocery stores and bodegas. The company delivers to diversified customers—including Spanish, Russian, Middle Eastern, Asian, and Caribbean groceries—six days a week, sending out six trucks daily and three on Saturdays throughout New York City’s five boroughs, as well as Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island.

In 2017, New York City began enforcing stringent new commercial recycling laws as part of its “Zero Waste Design Guidelines,” an ambitious plan to send zero waste to landfills by 2030. Jersey Lynne Farms was faced with a challenge.

organic waste biodigester
The LFC-200 biodigester in Jersey Lynne Farms’ Brooklyn distribution warehouse is compact, quiet, and odorless during continuous operation.

“All food and organic products have to be handled separately and no longer mixed in with the garbage,” explained Michael Loconte, president of Jersey Lynne Farms and son of its founder, Vito Loconte. “Given that we have a lot of perishable items, we needed to find a way to dispose of them according to the law. We looked into it with our trash haulers, but the fee to pick up the perishables twice a week was too high. We wanted another solution.

“A sales representative knew someone who had a machine that would process the organic waste. He got us in touch with Susanne Kauderer, a Power Knot representative, who led us to the LFC® biodigester.”

Designed and manufactured by Power Knot LLC, San Jose, CA, the LFC-200 operating at Jersey Lynne is a fully enclosed automatic biodigester, decomposing 440 to 800 pounds of food waste into environmentally safe “grey water” in 24 hours with no noise or odor.

“At first it looked new and different to our staff. But it’s easy to use, and has become part of our daily routine,” said Loconte. “The hardest part is taking the food out of its original packaging, but we had to do that anyway with our trash hauler handling the organics.”

When organic food waste is buried in landfills, it decomposes anaerobically, producing methane, which is 84 times worse for the atmosphere than carbon dioxide according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

To prevent the problem, New York City’s latest commercial recycling regulations require certain businesses to separate organic waste from other refuse. Included are food wholesalers having a floor area of more than 20,000 square feet. They must separate organic waste and have it transported to a landfill by a private carter, or process the material on site.

organic waste biodigester
The LFC-200 biodigester decomposes food waste into environmentally safe “gray” water in 24 hours.

Kauderer pointed out, “The (New York City) Department of Sanitation is visiting businesses that are 20,000 square feet or more and issuing tickets that violate the commercial organics rules.”

With a nearly 57,000 square feet of warehouse space, Loconte needed a solution, opting for a model LFC-200 biodigester.

“There are no extra steps to using the biodigester,” explains Loconte. The waste can be added at any time to the top-loading, U-shaped drum. A horizontal agitator slowly rotates every 20 minutes to mix the newly-added and previously-added food waste with air, PowerzymeTM enzymes and automatic infusions of cold and hot water.

Powerchips™ porous plastic chips, which remain in the drum and occupy approximately one-third of its volume, serve to both contain and distribute enzymes and microbes throughout the solid food waste, creating a large surface area that accelerates the decomposition process.

The aerobic, exothermic process produces water, CO2, and heat to 108°F, further accelerating bio-digestion. The CO2 created is part of the natural cycle of carbon generation from plants, which makes the process carbon neutral. Environmentally-safe grey water drains through a screen at the bottom of the vessel and into a standard municipal sewer line.

According to Loconte, eliminating the odor and mess of rotting food waste proved to be an ancillary advantage of composting over traditional organic food waste hauling.

organic waste biodigester
The biodigester’s door can be opened and organic food waste added at any time.

“The sanitation law requires that we separate the food and put it in separate containers,” he explained. “Given that we carry a wide variety of products, you’re talking about mixing eggs and salad and turkey breast and ham and sour cream. Imagine that in the summer. How do you store that indoors without the stink, and without attracting rodents, maggots, and flies?

“The LFC biodigester helps us avoid the smell of decaying food, complies with the Department of Sanitation Rules and Regulations, keeps us green, and saves on labor to clean and sanitize the containers where the waste would store,” said Loconte.

An on-board computer continuously stores composting data and displays it graphically on a color touch screen. The data, which are also available remotely via the cloud on any smart device, include the amount of food waste digested by the hour, day, week, month, and year. The touch screen provides other useful alerts including when enzymes need to be replenished (typically once a year) and when to replace the Powerchips media (typically once every three years).

For Loconte, the information helps verify Jersey Lynne’s compliance with the law. “It gives us up-to-the-minute reports on how much is composted, how much food we’ve put into it, how much money we’ve saved, and how much material we’ve kept out of landfills.”

During its first year, the LFC biodigester processed 17,420 pounds of solid food waste for Jersey Lynne, and reduced the wholesaler’s carbon footprint by 6.3 tons of CO2.

“Our business is always growing, and without a solution like the biodigester, the new regulations would have been expensive to comply with,” he said. “It will pay for itself in about three years, it’s sanitary and it doesn’t smell. And it’s good for the environment.”