HHS food waste greens McMaster University gardens

HHS food waste greens McMaster University gardens

The cafeterias at Hamilton Health Sciences feed hundreds of people each day, and preparing that food creates an enormous amount of waste. In 2012, food waste accounted for 21 per cent of all waste produced at Hamilton Health Sciences and only 13 per cent of that was being diverted into green bins.

Food waste waiting to be dumped into the dehydrator
Food waste waiting to be dumped into the dehydrator

That’s why HHS waste management coordinator, Rosemary Van Oostrom, spearheaded a project to shrink the hospital’s food waste footprint.

It’s estimated that each year, these dehydrators are helping to divert 170 tonnes of HHS food waste from landfills.

With a grant from the Ontario Hospital Association, Van Oostrom’s team purchased industrial food dehydrators.

 

Food waste dehydrator and green bin
The food waste dehydrator produces a byproduct that can be used as fertilizer

 

This is what the waste looks like partway through the dehydration process
This is what the waste looks like partway through the dehydration process

The dehydrators heat the food waste and churn it around, draining out moisture. By heating the waste to 180 F, they create a sterile biomass that’s free of any pathogens. The dehydrating process shrinks the food waste by 80 percent, leaving behind a much smaller byproduct that can be used as fertilizer. It’s estimated that each year, these dehydrators are helping to divert 170 tonnes of HHS food waste from landfills.

The finished byproduct looks a bit like soil and can be used as plant fertilizer
The finished byproduct looks a bit like soil and can be used as plant fertilizer

The initiative has been particularly successful at the McMaster Children’s Hospital/McMaster University Medical Centre site. They’ve created a partnership with McMaster university and once a month, the dehydrated byproduct is collected to be used as fertilizer in flower beds on the McMaster grounds. Fred Bene, grounds lead hand at the university says his team is seeing results and, “it puts a lot of nutrients back into the ground.”

Because of initiatives like this, HHS is earning a reputation as a leader in environmental practices among Ontario hospitals. HHS was awarded the 2015 Ontario Hospital Association Green Healthcare Award for both Waste Management and Energy Management.

Rosemary Van Oostrom receives the OHA Green Healthcare Award for Waste Management
Rosemary Van Oostrom receives the OHA Green Healthcare Award for Waste Management