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Tina Casey headshot

Totally Green Hacks Solar Leasing Model for New Food Waste Service

The food waste recycler Totally Green was doing pretty well with sales of its ORCA Green™ Machine composter, and then someone had a better idea: instead of selling the equipment outright, how about leasing it under a program similar to the power purchase agreements common in the solar industry?

Totally Green’s new food waste composting service plan just launched earlier this week so the results have yet to come in, but the company makes a convincing case for the advantages of having an on-site food waste recycling system without having to invest in the machinery. Given the enthusiasm with which solar customers have embraced the leasing model, if the Green Machine lease program is successful it could represent a growing trend in food waste handling and other environmental services.

Totally Green steps it up with new financing

The platform for Totally Green's leasing program is a new $5 million investment from the private equity firm York Plains Investment Corp., along with a $15 million line of credit.

The new program will leverage York's experience with consumer-oriented energy companies like Direct Energy, Universal Energy and National Home Services. As with typical solar leasing arrangements, Totally Green's clients will pay no up-front costs to have the ORCA Green Machine installed on their premises. Totally Green will service the machine through the lease agreement, and that provides the company with its revenue stream.

The Green Machine food waste recycler

The ORCA Green Machine is an aerobic digester, which uses the natural process of bacterial digestion to break down food waste into a liquid similar to compost tea. "Aerobic" refers to microorganisms that require oxygen to survive.

Totally Green has speeded up the process with the help of proprietary microorganisms and a bio-based growing medium. The machine is also designed to eliminate the odors typically associated with open air composting, so it can be installed within a kitchen area if desired.

The Green Machine can handle about 2,400 pounds of garbage daily consisting of "anything that can go in your stomach," including meat.

Why recycle food waste on site?

A company called EcoScraps illustrates another kind of food waste recycling model, in which the recycler hauls the scraps away to a central facility for conversion to marketable compost and soil enhancing products.

For businesses that have room for an on-site recycling operation, there are a number of advantages aside from the elimination of food waste disposal costs. One advantage is the potential for using the compost tea for landscaping on the premises, especially if that includes a kitchen garden.

Equipment like the Green Machine is also helpful for companies seeking a true net zero profile, all the more so because it eliminates any greenhouse gas emissions associated with hauling food scraps to a central recycling facility.

Looking for gold in a garbage pail

As for the field of food waste overall, there is plenty of room for recyclers with good ideas to grow. According to a recent EPA estimate, the U.S. generates 34 million tons of food waste annually, of which less than three percent is currently recycled.

More food waste recycling translates into more nutrients available for soil restoration and fertilization, and lower greenhouse gas emissions related to incineration or landfilling.

Image: Some rights reserved by sporkist.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Tina Casey headshotTina Casey

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.

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