Meet the Swissotel's Compost-Making Monster - NBC Chicago

Meet the Swissotel's Compost-Making Monster

Giant digester machine reduces hotel's waste by roughly 1,200 pounds each day



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    Walk into the Swissotel and you’d never know what’s lurking in the basement. A monster.

    Actually, it's a big, silver, garbage-eating monster named Freddy, built by BioHiTech America, and it's a welcome staff member that joined the team in November 2009.

    “It’s important for us here at Swissotel to be as sustainable as possible," said Eric Wiley, the hotel's Director of Engineering. This actual machine has an ROI (Return on Investment) of around two-and-a-half years. So, it’s a very sustainable thing and the right thing to do business-wise.”

    The business of feeding Freddy is quite easy.

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    "We have these small green cans. All our food scraps get pushed into the green cans and we train our staff to know that if you can digest it, Freddy can digest it. The contents of the green cans are put into Freddy.  You shut the door and it’s just like a compost," explained Executive Chef Dan McGee.

    Freddy is in service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, combining microorganisms, heat and water to compost with little smell.  The food waste is weighed and tracked by Freddy’s "brain" and the information shows up in a display on top of the machine.

    The machine reduces the hotel's waste by about 1,200 pounds each day with the only byproduct being a concentrated water-like liquid.

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    "It’s basically a water product. It’s safe to drink, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It just goes back into the water stream and actually saves the municipality the work of breaking down the food waste," said Wiley.  "When you put product in, within 30 days the product comes back to environment as a renewable resource. If you were to throw it in your trash it could take up to 100 years going to landfill."

    Swissotel hopes to add two more Freddys to the other two kitchens and eventually become waste-free.

    "I think this will be seen in every hotel in the next 10 years.  It's not only right but they will save money," said McGee.