Editorial Feature

Zero Food Waste to Landfill by 2030: The Technology Making this Possible

Malaysian start-up company MAEKO has developed a range of commercial composters, capable of complete food waste decomposition in just 24 hours.

food waste, land fill

Image Credit: Victoria 1/Shutterstock.com

Traditional composting solutions have struggled to break into the commercial setting, owing to the long process duration, space restrictions, high start-up costs, and the odors associated with them. Presenting at the UN Solutions Summit, MAEKO has revealed an in-house solution that tackles all such barriers. With its range of units already successfully deployed across four countries, they have made it their mission to create a sustainable circular food industry, tackling the global paradox of excessive food wastage and hunger.

How Much Food Do We Really Waste?

It is widely acknowledged that waste management is one of the most pressing issues we face as a planet. According to research undertaken by relief and development charity Tearfund, one person dies every 30 seconds from diseases linked to mismanaged waste. Yet, as a population, are we aware of the greatest contributors to this global crisis?

Shockingly, 50% of landfill waste is organic matter, which translates to 1.3 billion tons per year of preventable waste accumulating in rubbish heaps worldwide. In Malaysia alone, their daily generated food waste would be enough to feed 2.2 million people, evidencing food waste as one of the root causes of world hunger. Add to this that organic waste matter decomposes through the emission of methane, a gas 23 times more atmospherically toxic than carbon dioxide, and the issue becomes a social-environmental emergency.

In response, a key target of the UN’s sustainable development goal is “By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses”.

Further to this, the UK Government’s 2018 Resources and waste Strategy details “eliminating food waste to landfill by 2030” as one of its five strategic ambitions. Feasible, retail scale solutions must hence be rapidly implemented if these objectives are to be met.

The MAEKO Food Waste Solution

Established in 2011, Malaysian start-up company MAEKO has crafted a unique composting technology with the capacity for food waste management on the sought-after commercial scale. Combining expertise in biotechnology, mechanical engineering, and marketing, the three founders have made it their mission to create a closed-loop food industry, hence breaking the current spiraling circle of food wastage and global hunger.

The company’s patented, single-unit composting machines can accept all matter of food waste, including fish bones, eggshells, rice, and noodles. This matter is decomposed in an anaerobic environment, through careful control of the temperature, agitation, and airflow, with the addition of an embedded crushing unit to accelerate the process. The result of which is a machine capable of reducing food waste volume by 80% into bio-organic compost in just 24 hours - a process that conventionally takes 60 days. To combat the release of odors, which many report as their perceived barrier to installing compost bins indoors, the MAEKO units are fitted with a ventilation and bio-enzyme filtration system.

Having overcome the typically perceived barriers of decomposition duration, odor emissions, and size, MAEKO composters have already been implemented within a range of high waste generating environments, including hotels, factories, and hospitals. To date, this has resulted in over 7 million kilograms of food waste being redirected from landfill to compost. This compost is utilized for city landscaping or sold back to farmers as fertilizer in a final step to close the food loop.

Steps to Achieving Zero Food Waste to Landfill Globally

Already operating in four countries, one of MAEKO’s fundamental USPs to achieving this uptake is the flexibility of its technology. As explained by founder and CEO Chelsea Chee, “Our vision is to make the solution so flexible that all organic waste will be resolved at source and therefore no more food waste is being discarded into landfill”.

MAEKO has developed a range of commercial composters with daily input ranges from 30 L to 1 ton, in addition to its household unit “Munchbot”. This has opened up composting as an accessible solution to larger businesses, as opposed to just households with the luxury of a garden.

The business’s decision to offer various purchasing options is also crucial. Research revealed that current solutions require transportation of the waste to a recovery center for which the start-up costs are high, excluding many developing countries from implementing these schemes. Providing an in-house system and the option to lease or rent the machines removes this substantial initial spending.

These unique qualities earned MAEKO recognition as one of the 10 global sustainable solution makers at the 2019 UN Solution Summit. Using this platform, Chee announced the company is seeking global distribution partners and project investments to tackle the food waste crisis on a global scale.

The World Economic Forum has answered this request, naming MAEKO as one of 17 businesses in its Circular Accelerator Cohort 2021. Funding and expert advice to expand its network will be provided as part of the UN’s sustainable development goals with the overarching mission “to help make the circular economy a reality”. With this backing, MAEKO has identified Indonesia as its next target market, commencing with two sites and rapidly expanding to meet 52 wet markets by 2022. If this momentum continues, there is every chance MAEKO could soon become an intercontinental distributor, playing a key role in the UK’s ambitious target to eliminate food waste to landfill by 2030.

References and Further Reading

Broom, D. (2021) This Start-up Has Developed a way for Businesses to Quickly Compost Food waste. [online] World Economic Forum. Available at: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/04/food-waste-composter-start-up/ (Accessed on 5 July 2021)

Chee, C. (2019) Innovated Composting Technology to Divert Resources from Landfills by Composting Food Waste at Source. [online] Solutions-Summit. Available at: https://www.solutions-summit.org/innovation/mentari-alam-eko (Accessed on 5 July 2021)

HM Government. (2018) Our Waste, Our Resources: A Strategy for England. Resources and Waste Strategy Team. London. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/765914/resources-waste-strategy-dec-2018.pdf

MAEKO. (n.d.) Home [online] Available at: https://www.maeko.com.my/ (Accessed on 5 July 2021)

Schreyer, L. (2019) Why Aren’t we Composting All Our Food waste? [online] Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/@angelica.schreyer/why-arent-we-composting-all-of-our-food-waste-753b6d0f7b36 (Accessed on 5 July 2021)

Tidy Planet. (2019) Closed Loops Food waste is a Growing Trend In Hospitality. [online] Tidy Planet. Available at: https://www.tidyplanet.co.uk/closed-loop-food-waste-management-growing-trend-hospitality/ (Accessed on 5 July 2021)

United Nations. (n.d.) Goal 12: Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns. [online]  Sustainable Development Goals. Available at: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/ (Accessed on 5 July 2021)

Unreasonable Company Group. (n.d.) Meet an Unreasonable Group. [online] Unreasonable Group. Available at: https://unreasonablegroup.com/companies/maeko (Accessed on 5 July 2021)

William, M. Gower, R. Green, J. (2019) No Time to waste. Tearfund. Teddington. https://learn.tearfund.org/-/media/learn/resources/reports/2019-tearfund-consortium-no-time-to-waste-en.pdf

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Bea Howarth

Written by

Bea Howarth

Bea is an aerospace engineering graduate from the University of Liverpool. Having discovered a particular interest in the applications of novel technology within engineering, she began writing for AZoNework during her third year of university to pursue this passion with an increased commercial focus. She will soon begin a graduate role in a manufacturing technology company, for which sustainability and efficiency optimization are at the heart of all operations.

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