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ESS composts 100% of kitchen food waste at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom

Case Study

ESS is working in collaboration with its client to introduce a range of sustainable initiatives and working practices at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom where it delivers catering and FM services. Recognising a great opportunity to reduce food waste collections and create a useful product, ESS has introduced an in-vessel food waste composter to the contract.

The site produces thousands of meals every day across breakfast, lunch and dinner for customers living on and off site, as well as providing a high volume of hospitality and event catering.  

Having implemented processes to reduce food waste to a minimum, including chef innovation to give a second life to food, waste is limited to mostly fruit and vegetable cuttings, some out-of-date products, meat trimmings, plate scrapings and coffee grounds.

The initiative has proved extremely successful – ESS is now collecting around 1,250 kg of food waste (per week) and, to date, has converted 34,263 kg of food waste to 8,675 kg of nutrient-rich compost.

Three months after commencing composting, ESS turned off its external food waste collection service and now deals with all food waste on site.

The process is managed by waste facilities technician, Trevor Claridge, who uses an electric vehicle to collect food waste from six large and busy kitchens and three retail outlets across the establishment. As well as food products, he collects shredded cardboard and compostable packaging.

Waste is tipped into the composter, which works 24-hours a day in an almost non-stop process of churning, bacterial digestion and transformation.

The finished product is a garden-ready compost which is dry and odourless. It is removed from the composter every Monday morning.

The compost is used to supply an organic garden built by ESS on site. The team has converted one-acre of previously unused land into a hive of growing activity. The site is managed by two gardeners and incorporates ground and raised beds and polytunnels housing crops including tomatoes, courgettes, beans, leeks, spring onions, beetroots and pumpkins. The ingredients produced are being used by chefs in a new ESS outlet dedicated to promoting sustainability and wellbeing.

The compost generated is also available to Defence Academy staff and the golf club and the team has recently opened a community compost bay to support the site population with access to free compost.

As well as recycling food waste into a usable product, use of the composter has cut the emissions previously associated with lorries attending site to remove food waste on a regular basis.

To further support the reduction of food waste, the site will be introducing Compass Group UK & Ireland’s new food waste management system. This involves measuring and reporting on food waste across five categories: out of date, plate, post-production, pre-production and retail. Providing greater clarity on when waste is produced will enable the team to make targeted reductions.  

Bob Gray, Managing Director – ESS Defence, Marine and Aerospace, commented:

“The sustainability work being done at the Defence Academy is fantastic to see. The team has delivered a real step change by diverting 100% of the site’s food waste to the in-vessel composter introduced last spring, removing the need for external food waste collections. The initiative has been so successful that we’re now able to provide nutrient-rich compost for our own organic garden, the site golf course and members of the site population. A great example of what working collaboratively can achieve!”

Composting at Defence Academy