Perth Environmental: Breathing new life into food waste
Ten years after Glenn Nafziger began pork farming, he decided to branch out. In 1990, he bought a sewage truck and started providing septic removal services, and Perth Environmental (www.PerthEnvironmental.com) was born. Based in Brunner, Ontario, the company grew from one truck to eight trucks and moved from septic services to providing collection and disposal service to the food and beverage sector. With a growing fleet of six vac trailers, two tank trucks and a bulk trailer, Perth Environmental can offer disposal options for all types of waste generated by food and beverage plants, namely sludges, grease interceptors, syrups, sugars, brewery waste, soda pop and high strength wastewater.
Nafziger saw that a large volume of food waste meant environmentally friendly practices needed to be developed. Also, he saw a need to eliminate, or greatly reduce, land application, while addressing capacity issues. So Nafziger spent about a year researching, experimenting, designing, developing and consulting experts in order to develop a method to process waste sludge and recover the oil.
There were no business models or industry standards to study. Nafziger was on his own. In 2007, his first step was to surround himself with a team that could provide direction. This team included his accountant, an engineer, a mechanical company, a business development representative, a chemist, and various representatives from laboratories.
Armed with a microwave, a turkey cooker, a heat exchanger and a bench test centrifuge, he set about to determine the results of heating collected food waste, with the goal of custom designing a system for dealing with food waste removal and disposal. Nafziger hired an engineering firm to support the system design and to help determine the bio fuel potential of the end-product materials. It was labour intensive, as their output samples had to be sent to various labs in Canada and the United States to test nitrogen, moisture, FFA (Free Fatty Acid) and BTU (British Thermal Unit) levels.
Nafziger brought his sons, Steven and Christopher, on board. Together, they decided to take the plunge and invest in Nafziger’s unique invention. The investment required was significant, but would prove to be revolutionary in food waste management. For over a year, Nafziger worked on constructing, re-constructing, and fine-tuning the process that is in operation today. Once it was perfected, the main building was transformed into a waste recycling facility. Now, Perth Environmental uses a process that is enormously beneficial in providing an alternative to land application and landfill disposal of food waste. It also provides a solution to high volume and capacity issues and the associated high costs. And it all started with a microwave and a turkey roaster.
So, how does it all work? Nafziger explains: “At our plant in Brunner, Ontario, we empty the truck into large tanks that are first heated then allowed to settle. In our tank, the settling has oils and fat on top, water in the middle and solids on the bottom.”
“The oil phase is further processed and refined, the solid phase is removed and shipped to a nearby bio-digester and used to produce electrical energy. The remaining water isthen shipped to a fully licensed water treatment facility for final processing.”
Now, not only does Perth Environmental save on disposal costs, it also generates income with the oil that is sold from the end process. Nafziger’s company also receives waste from other food waste haulers.
Naturally, the greatest benefit of this process is the recycling aspect and the impact it has on the environment in terms of reducing land application and land fill disposal. Furthermore, the oil recovered during the process is sold to the North American Bio Diesel Industry.
Nafziger’s work has benefited the food sector, especially processing plants, by providing safe and environmentally friendly “cradle to grave” solutions for waste disposal. The community has also benefitted in terms of employment. Nafziger currently has 12 employees and as the business continues to grow, plans are in place to increase that number.
Now, 25 years after it started, Perth Environmental works with many of Ontario’s largest food-related companies, providing its services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With his fleet of trucks they aim to provide excellent services while working to shrink the environmental footprint.