Equipment: Four Dehydra Bench Food Waste Dewaterers
NHS Grampian forms one of the 14 regional health boards in Scotland and comprises 25 hospitals – providing health and social care services to over half-a-million people living in the Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, and Moray regions.
In the past, food waste in Scotland could be sent to landfill, incineration, or disposed of to a sewer, but in 2015, the Scottish Government introduced long-awaited new laws on how this material should be dealt with by businesses – an updated policy that also applied to hospitals.
Under the legislation, there was a clear focus on making sure that producers recognised the resource potential of food waste and did everything they could to recover it in a clean way and prevent it from being landfilled. This meant presenting it separately for collection, before sending it to off-site composting or anaerobic digestion plants, to be turned into something valuable – such as compost or energy.
For busy hospitals – like those under the NHS Grampian board – breakfast, lunch, and dinner times are something of a military, time-led operation. Food waste arrives at the same time every day, and the ‘clean-up’ then begins – preparing for the next meal service.
The nutritional requirements of thousands of patients are a challenge for NHS Grampian. When mealtimes are over, the waste is required to be dealt with through the appropriate waste streams. Whether it be plated meal or bulk food service, the items come back to the kitchen to be dealt with by the staff.
When the used tins entered the kitchen, workers manually separated the inedibles, napkins, and leftover food – scraping the latter into a trough disposer while a rinse hose quickly removed the heavier, stickier foods. This waste was then shredded into fine particles and flushed into the main sewer system.
With the changes to the law, this disposer-to-sewer method would no longer be permitted, so the hospitals in Scotland were given a choice of options for a food waste solution through a framework agreement.
However, this change became quite an obstacle for the healthcare food service, because it meant that the action of decanting the tins needed another step – food waste would have to be collected at the table and then moved to the newly provided equipment.
Upon further investigation, because of the weight of food waste, only small collection bins could be used – meaning they would have to be changed frequently. With already limited space at the table and having to accommodate a staff member moving bins away too meant that the team couldn’t be as efficient as before.
They therefore needed a solution that would fit within their seamless operation – not one which required them to change it.
For the 2015 project, Tidy Planet was chosen to work with the hospitals of Aberdeen where we not only refurbished the hospitals’ food waste disposers but worked together with the site in devising the optimum design layouts and installing an additional under-counter food waste dewatering system to the tin-wash scraping tables.
In several pot-wash locations, we supplied complete benches that had identical dimensions to the old units. This meant not taking up any extra space or asking the hospital to adapt to moving waste processing from an area that was designed with the flow of work to accept it. In most instances, these benches were installed overnight to allow the hospital kitchens to carry out their day work uninterrupted.
The dewatering systems then minimised the volume of food waste by squeezing out the liquid element and the movement of the waste was cut down by over 75%.
The challenge and solution (part two)
Sadly, in 2021, the maker of the disposers – used by the hospitals for over 30 years – ceased manufacture and supply. The food waste legislation in Scotland was soon set to be replicated in England and Wales, so it was presumed there would be no further need for this product.
This however, left the hospitals in a position where their existing disposers could no longer be serviced and repaired. And as these were a critical part of managing and handling food waste in the NHS kitchens, something had to be done.
Tidy Planet was therefore approached again and asked to propose a new solution for the healthcare sites – in-keeping with the flow of waste and the fact that a new disposer manufacturer would be needed.
We put the NHS Grampian team firmly in the design driving seat and listened to all their requirements and ‘nice-to-haves’. And this conversation shaped the design concept.
It was a truly collaborative effort, with our designs being pinned to NHS staff notice boards to amend or make suggestions.
After taking healthcare colleagues’ extra thoughts on board, we amended the drawings, and we had a bespoke solution that met all their needs and was ready for manufacturing.
The units are equipped with an updated hydro extractor, which is stronger, quieter, and incorporates a new self-cleaning feature. The disposer features a stronger cutter and operates 10db quieter than similar systems – making the units not only more resilient but less of a strain on the ears of the staff.
The benches have also been equipped with sound deadening material to help reduce the clatter of plates on steel, spray-down units have been reinforced to prevent crockery breakages, the working area is larger, and the anti-drip bin lids are deeper. Overall, these benches are not only more ergonomic, but help to make working with them more of an efficient process.
The bespoke Bench technology we developed for hospitals also fits many types of service – from plated meals to bulk tins – so can fit to meet hospitals’ individual catering needs.
The first four dewatering systems were delivered and installed in June 2021 at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Royal Cornhill Hospital.