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Food Waste Recycling: Give Table Scraps A Second Life with Chris O’Brien, Founder of Hungry Giant Recycling

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With so much trash produced by the food we eat, looking for sustainable ways to reuse them must always be a top priority in any organization or community. Without implementing sustainable food waste recycling methods, these will only continue piling up in landfills. Chris O’Brien has found an efficient way to address this problem that goes beyond compost: using bio-dehydration systems to turn food waste into compostable food stock. Joining Corinna Bellizzi, he talks about how their electric-powered machines at Hungry Giant Waste Systems provide innovative solutions for the handling and management of organic material. Chris explains how reducing food waste through their products can lead to healthier soil, reduce methane gas production, and make recycling much easier to do even right at your own home.

 

About Chris O’Brien

CMBB 124 | Food Waste RecyclingChris O’Brien is the Founder of Hungry Giant, a cleantech business turning food waste into compostable foodstock, agricultural fertilizer and other reusable resources. An experienced professional and innovator of the waste and recycling industry, having built and sold several companies in Australia, Chris moved to the US to expand his US operations in 2018. Today the Hungry Giant has distributors all over the world that represent the brand, and the company continues to innovate technologies, most notably food waste technologies and provides innovative commercial solutions for handling and management of organics (food waste). The company specializes in grinding, transfer, dewatering and bio-dehydration systems and provides collection services for both processed and unprocessed food waste.

 

Guest Links

Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/hungry-giant-waste-systems/

Guest Website: https://hungrygiantrecycling.com 

Guest Social: https://www.instagram.com/foodrecyclers/https://www.facebook.com/hungrygiantwaste/ 

 

Show Notes

0:00 – Introduction
3:42 – The Story Behind Hungry Giant
7:51 – Exploring a Biohydrator
11:50 – Comparisons with Compost
19:44 – Applications of Recycled Food Scraps
23:02 – Creating Dog Food
30:12 – Decarbonization and Healthier Grasslands
32:09 – Negative Aspects of Using A Biohydrator
35:47 – Dissecting Hungry Giant’s Machine
47:00 – Calling For More Socially Responsible Restaurants
49:26 – Hungry Giant’s Role in the Modern World
58:33 – Conclusion

 

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Food Waste Recycling: Give Table Scraps A Second Life with Chris O’Brien, Founder of Hungry Giant Recycling

Every week I invite you to care more. Together, we can create a better future. Our Be Better Challenge, #BeBetterChallenge, which you can follow in social spaces, is specifically about reducing food waste and composting. In the spirit of that challenge, I’m thrilled to introduce you to the Founder of Hungry Giant. It is a clean tech business, turning food waste into compostable food stock.

Chris O’Brien is an experienced innovator and the waste and recycling industry with several successes in Australia. He moved to the US to expand his US operations back in 2018. With Hungry Giant Waste Systems, he provides innovative solutions for handling and management of organic material. They specialize in grinding, transferring, dewatering, and bio-dehydration systems. We are going to dig into what each of those means. They also offer collection services for processed and unprocessed food wastes, which we will also define. Welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me, Corinna.

It is lovely to meet you. Someone from down under relocating to the US, what was that culture shock like?

It was a lot. We were established a few years prior to my moving here. I traveled to the US. I knew what I was getting into, but it was still a culture shock.

You are in Texas.

Yes, I’m in Austin, which is a great place to live, but they don’t put how bad the allergies are in the brochures. If I start having a sneezing fit or my eyes start watering, it is not that I’m not enjoying myself. It is the allergies.

You remind me of the insane allergy attack I had in Australia. We are going along Seven Sisters or something to that effect.

There are the three sisters in the Blue Mountains and the twelve apostles on the Southern Coastline.

I was heading through the area on the coast. It is a beautiful drive. It reminds me of some of the coastal roads in California that we have where there is a lot of erosion. You have these croppings off the coast that are cliff faces surrounded by water. As we were heading down the coast, suddenly, I got the worst allergy attack of my life. I had to leave my husband at the wine tasting where I had dropped him off. I get in the car, drive to a pharmacy and get something that is the equivalent of like Claritin to quell my insane running nose and itchy eyes.

It is the same here. I’m on a routine. I’m filling my body with sprays, eyedrops, and antihistamines. If it gets bad, I have to have an injection in my butt. Austin is a great town, but cedar fever gets you.

As we are getting started in this conversation and digging into things like composting waste management, can you talk to us about why you even started this business and the evolution of what brought you to create Hungry Giant?

It is quite a long story, but going back to my early twenties, I have always been entrepreneurial and looking to solve problems. I wouldn’t say I’m a pure environmentalist, but I call myself an environmentalist capitalist. I understand that for things environmentally to happen in this commercial world that we live in, those environmental ideologies need to be supported by a way to make it work financially. I have always had a keen eye for solving problems.

When I was studying, I was also working at a big box retailer in Australia at the time. I was the fill-in guy on a Thursday night. I would be at the back of the warehouse, loading up cars as they came to pick up their refrigerator, stovetop, or whatever. Part of the process was you had to unpack all this stuff. I saw the sheer volume of trash and waste that was being generated, in particular, expended styrofoam. That white stuff they insulate the refrigerators with. It was going in the trash. I’m like, “This stuff weighs nothing. It is taken up all this space in the dumpster.” I see the trash truck coming every day to pick up the trash.

The idea dawned on me, “I wonder if we could turn this into a recyclable plastic if we could take it out of the trash and we mechanically come up with a way to crush it and reduce volume.” I started designing and building a machine that crushed and densified styrofoam. The place where I had this job was my first customer. I built this machine, and it was a massive disaster, but we evolved the design and technology. We ended up coming up with a product that could reduce the volume of styrofoam from 90 to 1.

We also commoditized that material. By taking it out of the dumpster, we had the customer compact it, collect it, and sell it to recyclers, who turned it back into disposable camera casings, code hangers, and stuff like that. The concept of volume reduction at the point where the waste is generated and the concept of turning a waste product into a commodity or a resource lit my fire. I found that in my early twenties, that became my purpose.

I fell into the waste industry. It was something that happened when I had that idea. As time went on, these customers were saying, “This is great. You are solving our styrofoam issue. Can you work on our cardboard and plastics? Can you provide other ideas and solutions?” We became this company that did everything in the waste industry.

Back in 2007, I came across a technology out of Korea which handled food waste at the source. I didn’t invent this particular technology, but what we did was we imported some machines that we found some technology from Korea. That failed terribly. These machines were not designed for the western diet. They were not recognized for application. The whole premise was to turn food waste into a soil amendment or fertilizer-type output. I said about re-engineering and redesigning that equipment from the ground up. Fast forward, however, many years and lots of gray hairs and stress, and here we are now.

Let’s talk about the tech of what you created with Hungry Giant. What exactly is a Bio-Dehydrator? I can make an assumption in my mind about how this might work, but I would love for you to talk about it because the application moves you into a space where you can create multiple uses for what would be this organic material.

Part of this chatting with you is educating the greater public about composting and understanding that there are differences between digesting and creating compost. Compost is not derived purely from food waste. Compost has a lot of inputs. It is minerals, sand, rocks, browns, carbon, and a whole bunch of stuff that comes together to make compost.

Compost is not derived purely from food waste but from a lot of inputs such as minerals, sand, and rocks. Click To Tweet

There is a lot of misinformation out there, especially on the commercial side of things, where people think that compost is the be-all and end-all. We went down the avenue of producing equipment dehydrating food waste more than creating compost itself. There are several reasons that we went down that route. Our technology is a better fit for people who generate waste in commercial volumes and at home.

Composting is like baking a cake. You have to watch how much moisture you put in. You have to watch your ingredients. You have to make sure that you don’t put too many browns. You have to turn it in every so often. In a business environment, back of a kitchen, a restaurant, a hotel, or a ship, these facilities, first and foremost, focus on their core business. They are not a professional composting operation.

Our technology focuses on stabilizing the material. It stops it from creating methane gases. It eliminates pathogenic transfer. I won’t get into the words too much about the complicated aspects of the technology, but what it does predominantly are you put your food waste in. It rolls it around in a drum over several hours. It dries it out and heats it to a temperature where pathogens are killed. It does retain nutrient density in terms of NPK or the source needs for land application or assisting with the growth enhancement of plants.

For NPK, you are talking about nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. For the lay public to explain these things, those are the key nutrients you mostly feed plants and why compost becomes something usable. Some of the challenges at home or restaurant-composting, you get the intrusion of insects. You might make it a little too soupy. You have to control moisture. It can smell. If you are talking about a restaurant, that is the last thing you want. You want to keep all those smells down.

Your point about pathogens is also quite interesting, especially in these pandemic times, where people are concerned about things like if it will transfer disease. You might even have something like listeria. You hear about these recalls for things like cabbage or romaine lettuce because there was some intrusion of bacteria that ended up getting on the food sources and making people ill. All of this is on point now. I have seen some countertop composters that guarantee, in many days, it is completely done. Is that a similar technology?

It is a similar outcome, but it is a different technology. They use air circulation. They don’t have indirect oil jacket heating. It is the same outcome in terms of creating a stabilized product that is heated up to a point where it is inert. It doesn’t have that microbial activity. If you want to reintroduce it into a compost pile, blend it, and add it, it does rehydrate. Microbes can get stuck into it and start eating and doing their thing.

The good thing about our process is, in terms of the pathogenic transfer, the whole supply chain, and risk management, it is aligned in the sand. Once we heat it to a certain temperature for a certain amount of time and we know that it is inert, it is different to compost because, with open windrows or at-home composting, it can get soupy at times. You can have too much of one thing.

As you keep adding to it, you have varying levels of degradation of the organic material. You could put a whole pile of food scraps from your kitchen on top of an already mature compost pile. That changes that whole dynamic because that has to catch up and break down, whereas, with our process, it is a start and stop. You got multiple options open to you rather than compost.

It would also kill the healthy bacteria there because it becomes completely inert.

In terms of coliform and reintroduction into microbial environments, as soon as you reintroduce it into the soil, that is teaming with microbes.

It is the fertile ground because it has those nutrients that the microbes are going to want anyway.

One of the exciting things is compost has one opportunity to be a product, and that is compost. The material that comes out of the Hungry Giant systems has multiple opportunities. It can be used for energy recovery because it has a high burn and caloric value. It can be used as a solar amendment. It is less transport. It got a high NPK rating.

CMBB 124 | Food Waste Recycling
Food Waste Recycling: Compost only has the opportunity to be a compost. Meanwhile, the material produced by Hungry Giant systems can also be used for energy recovery and soil amendment.

 

We have a customer here in Austin collecting food scraps from restaurants. He is running it through our technology. He is turning it into pet food. He has done all sorts of lab tests and analyses. He sees it got amino acids and good stuff in it. We are moving into this era where commercial operators are looking for higher-value use for food waste. They view it as a commodity and a resource instead of a waste because putting it in your dumpster and sending it to a landfill is lunacy. The flow and effects of leaking trucks, the smell, and leachates in landfills that leach into waterways. It is crazy when this is a high-value material.

In my local area, I was an advocate for our waste industries to start allowing composting from our food scraps. As of February 2022, they allow you to put all your food scraps, animal and otherwise, into your compost bin. It is nice to finally see it happen because it goes to a commercial operation that manages that, and it gets used.

Let’s say you live in an apartment. You may not have enough soil around to put something like that into use. Composting isn’t practical. I have seen some services in cities where they will collect your food scraps. People will take up some space in their freezer and freeze them until it is time to submit them to their compost system. Are you involved in any projects like that presently as you expand your business?

We are working on the residential system, but you touch on an important point. Composting, whether it be single-family or multifamily, has to be easy for people. Adding another compost caddy, dumpster, or bin complicates it. I don’t know if you remember when they introduced the blue bins and the recycling lids from the trash. People were flipping out like, “How do I separate? How do I do this?” It has to be easy.

Composting should be easy for everyone to do, whether it is in a single-family or multi-family home. Click To Tweet

One of the things we have been working on from a residential perspective is coming up with ways. Austin is developing this ordinance for commercial operators. Food waste is banned from going into the trash. They are proposing an ordinance for multifamily to have composting put in place. There are parts of the city that have single-family composting. There are private operators that pick up compost caddies, similar to what you have at your house.

The issue is that in Texas, when it is 120 degrees, you have lots of rotting food waste in every driveway. It attracts critters and vermin. It is an interesting conundrum. This is why I have a biased view that having some mechanical-accelerated degradation of food waste at the point where it is generated is wonderful for the environment in terms of logistics. It is good to contain it in terms of odor and methane emissions because the longer the food sits there, the more methane is generated from those microbes.

Methane is 80 times more impactful than carbon when it comes to CO2 in the atmosphere versus methane. We can’t draw it down. It has a long residence time before it drifts back to the surface of the earth as a solid product. I also covered an episode where I interviewed another Australian, Ben Jeffreys, at ATEC. He has created clean cooking and efficient energy-use stoves. There is a bioreactor and bio dehydrator that he employs, where you can turn animal waste into fuel. That becomes what is the clean cooking solution because it takes care of methane production while also producing fuel.

It does release carbon but is 80 times less bad than methane, while also cleaning up the cooking of our kitchens and some of these areas that may not have other clean cooking options. They are over dirty fires, using wood, and other things that can impact their health because they inhale smoke and other fumes while cooking. There are all sorts of solutions we can head toward. To your point, if we are able to take these food scraps and turn them into something inert, what can that material be used for at that point? We know one application can be to the soil amendment, but what can be done with this?

We touch started touching on that before. The important point here is that people need to understand that it is not only the reuse options that open up when you stabilize an organic material like this. I’m trying not to use industry lingo as much as I can here, but in terms of optimizing logistics, people don’t think about the emissions impact of transporting wet food waste. It is heavy. You are picking it up often because it stinks. You have to have those frequent collections. We get rid of that in terms of the whole supply chain. We short-circuit that emissions generation.

In terms of valuable output options, we have customers that are that is burning it on board ships. They are putting it into their incinerators, which still have emissions, but we have stabilized the material. What we have found is because the material is dry, it is able to help them maintain the operating temperature. The diesel fuel and the fuel input requirement are reduced because of the high burn value of our material.

When they are operating this equipment, they are getting energy from it because it is offsetting the energy that they would otherwise have to put in to maintain the operating temperature of these incineration systems or gasification systems. That is a big plus in terms of energy from waste. We have customers that turn it into a fertilizer. They go through, and they balance pH. They might screen it and remove larger fraction sizes.

It is used as a fertilizer product, which has a higher value on a per-ton basis than compost. Fertilizer costs keep going up with everything going on in Ukraine. Fertilizer energy from waste soil amendment. There are people that are blending it with compost piles. There are companies that we got that are using it on the ground. They are not even having it hauled away. They are producing food waste and land applying it on their grounds, which is incredible.

Lastly, creating value-added products. This customer in Austin is also turning it into pet food. Compost can only ever be composted, but the output from our process has multiple options. The best option depends on the customer’s situation, location, and grounds. We know that we are reducing logistics and transport collection frequency anywhere from 70% to 90%, which is impactful.

CMBB 124 | Food Waste Recycling
Food Waste Recycling: Hungry Giant helps reduce logistics and transport collection frequency from around 70% to 90%.

 

Let’s talk for a moment about this dog food. I’m curious how you would take something I think of in my mind as soil or fertilizer and put that into a second application of food. How does that work? Is it a nutrient amendment or a kibble?

It is like kibble. They are carefully controlling the input. When you think of restaurant scraps to pet food, not every restaurant blended. He got a number of customers that produced a sequential, predictable output. You got a ramen noodle bar that has beef bones, beef broth, and noodles. You have a juice bar that got juice pulp. They got multiple of our machines. They run an ingredient list into each machine effectively. They blend that material, and they screen it.

If you think about it, having those bones go into effect because maybe it is used as a soup bone or something like that. It is left behind, but it would still have valuable nutrients that a dog needs. In the wild, dogs eat the whole of the animal. They get a lot of calcium. I live near an open space preserve. I see coyote scat. I can always tell the coyote from the dog because it is full of animal hair and bone material. Sometimes it will even appear white because of how much bone material is in there.

We need animal feed to be closer to the wild counterpart would have in order for them to maintain optimal health. Many of the conditions you see dogs run into are where they might have a dry coat and things along those lines. Hotspots are related to their diet and the junk we have been putting in their food. Cleaning that up but going to food sources that aren’t filler is critical. I have an eleven-year-old dog. She is healthy. I see a lot of my neighborhood that is getting the worst of the kibble.

The natural canine diet was a mixture of whatever they could get.

Yes, a lot of rodents.

They would eat whatever they could eat. The owner of this company is a dog lover. He is creating a bone meal from those bone products. He is grinding them up and getting them marrow. He is heating up through our system, and all that stuff is getting into it. All the fats are rendering down. He runs it through some equipment that forms it into kibble. My dog and his dogs have eaten it. He is commercially promoting it.

You need to mention the brand because I’m curious.

It is called Doggy Bag, which is a good name. It is from restaurant food scraps to pet food. It is a pretty apt brand. Jeff is one of the co-founders and a gentleman by the name of Mason. They are clever operators. I’m proud to have our technology affiliated with this. What I think is it is the new front frontier of turning food waste into a higher-value commodity.

One of the things I wanted to touch on, which is getting in the weeds a little bit, but it is important, is everyone at home knows that a lot of cities they are living in are creating ordinances and mandates to have a compost system or compost collection program. What nobody is talking about is the infrastructure already cannot cope. The composters 5 to 10 miles from the metro area where these cities mandate food waste recycling initiatives are hitting a capacity. They will have to find other ways to create a higher value product or move further out of town, which is more miles per pound of food waste.

One of my colleagues showed me statistics somewhere in North Carolina. It was a graph. The graph had thousands of tons of compost capacity from infrastructure providers. For people that operate compost facilities, here is the capacity. The graph said, “Here is the amount of compost collected in that area.” The amount of compost way surpassed the capacity of these commercial operators. That is happening in California too. I was at the WasteExpo last May 2022. It was one of the talks there. It is mainly a junket of people in the industry wanting to catch up and get drunk. You get some good stuff out of it.

They were talking about, “We got 23 facilities. We are expanding to 26. We got these ones under construction, and those ones that aren’t even built yet or already have volume allocated at their capacity.” That is how far behind they are. No one is talking about how infrastructure can’t cope. The flow and effect from that are when you have an oversupply of compost gets, guess what happens to the commodity value. The value goes down.

You got increasing collection costs and facilities being pushed further out, which means their cost per pound is going to go up more diesel and wages. You got a decline in commodity value. You got increased supply and declining commodity value. What does that mean? It means that compost is not going to be the black gold that everyone used to refer to it as. This is where creating a fertilizer, a solar amendment, or an evaluated product like pet food is the future. This particular company in Austin is forward-thinking. They are putting money and effort into creating IP. They are doing the research. They are the new frontier in terms of turning that food waste into a more usable resource.

CMBB 124 | Food Waste Recycling
Food Waste Recycling: The oversupply of composts leads to a decrease in commodity value and an increase in collection costs. This is where creating a fertilizer or a soil-amended product like pet food is the future.

 

I would be an advocate for getting to the point where we have all that amazing compost available to get to a spot where it is commoditized, the point where we can take it and spread it. The reality is that we are losing our topsoil at an alarming rate. I also learned that our number one export is topsoil from the United States if you are looking at it on a volume and weight basis. We are getting to a stage where we have leading thought leaders like Sadhguru himself out there talking about the need to preserve and protect our soils. Topsoil is one of those that is eroding most quickly.

I’m curious if there is a way to connect these things long-term. We have something as simple as spreading onto prairies. We can have healthier grasses and cattle that are free-range. We are able to build more nutrition systems, sequester carbon, and keep our grasslands healthy. Getting it all to go back into the soil is the goal at this point. We call it the drawdown principle, sequestering carbon in the soil.

Sequestering carbon or decarbonization has been the buzzword of the last few years. This is where the government has a responsibility because it is all about incentives. When you live in a capitalist society where it has to make sense for that private operator, they might have a huge pile of compost that they have produced, but they are not going to spread it over there for nothing because it costs them X amount of dollars to produce it. That is where tax incentives and government incentives are critical to this process because environmental ideology has to make financial sense for it to work.

CMBB 124 | Food Waste Recycling
Food Waste Recycling: Decarbonization has been the buzzword of the last few years. This is where the government has a responsibility because everything is all about incentives in a capitalist society.

 

What are the negatives, if there are any, between what you are processing in this Bio Dehydrator versus traditional composting where you are turning it or vermicomposting?

The one that comes to mind that most people would think of is our system is a mechanical process, and it uses energy. Having a compost drum in your backyard uses no energy. The downside of energy consumption is offset by the upside of not having methane generation because we are short-circuiting it. For a lot of our customers, we recommend that they opt for or pay a slight premium for green energy. That becomes a moot point. In terms of valuable reuse, opportunities for the material and the methane are a plus.

The only negative with any mechanically assisted process is there is the potential that you are dependent on a mechanical process. If those machines break down, there is a high cost involved with repairing or fixing that equipment. Whereas if you have a ranch or a farm, a land or a property where you can spread that material and let nature do its thing, there is no chance that it is going to break down.

Commercial operation has to weigh up the positives and negatives. It is the same at home. There are people who want those countertop systems that you mentioned before. They want to reduce the volume. They only have pot plants in their apartment. They want to use that volume-reduced material and put it into their pot plants. You will have other people that have a couple of acres. Their whole setup is going to be completely different. Our technology is not a one-shot solution for all applications. It is one that can certainly help and contribute. It is like a triangle. First is reuse, resale, and food banks. It flows down from there.

I’m chuckling a little bit on the inside here because you said pot plants. I know this is an Australian vernacular because we would say potted. I’m picturing people growing marijuana. Speaking of the waste from that.

It is legal now.

I know, and they might be growing that. It is an interesting difference between how you speak in Australia and how you speak here. We say potted plants. Otherwise, it is Mary Jane. These are the small differences that can even arise after years of being here in the States.

I still find myself rolling my Rs. It is different now because we have a camera, but when I’m on the phone, I will say something, and they will be like, “Beg your pardon. Can you repeat that?” I was like, “I have been here for several years. How do you not understand me?” I have to roll my Rs, and they get it.

Help us picture what this machine looks like, how big it is, how noisy it is, and how much energy it might use so that we can better understand what current applications are. If you are moving into the home, what does that look like? How is that different?

They are big stainless steel boxes. To the untrained eye, it looks like a dishwasher. Inner workings are different. We have small systems for small restaurants. In North America, we have the smallest commercial system available, starting at 70 pounds per cycle. We go all the way up to 3,000 pounds per cycle. On top of that, we have a whole bunch of ancillary equipment that we can offer to support whatever your operation is. You probably got a disposal at home in your sink. Have you got one of those disposals?

I got a couple.

At the moment, it has become the city’s problem. We have large commercial versions of those disposals, pulpers, grinders, or whatever you want to call them. We have larger ones where it will grind, but it will spin the water off from the pulp. It will separate the solids from the water. That pulp gets fed into the Bio-Dehydration system to complete the process. What you have is a consistent particle. Some customers are putting in certified single-use compostable packaging with the waste getting ground up and going through our dehydration process.

I see some that say they are made from corn, but they look virtually like plastic.

You have to be careful. There are forever chemicals like PFAs that are a no-no in our eyes. Those corn-starched PLAs or bioplastics have a high-temperature threshold. They don’t typically go well through our system. Those fiber clamshells, chopsticks, coffee cups, or anything fiber-based go well through our system.

I learned about a company that is collecting chopsticks from restaurants, those wooden ones, and turning them into products. They sterilize them because they have germs and food particles on them. They are turning them into creative things like cutting boards, bowls, and different things like that. I’m curious to see where else we can have these innovations crop up with time.

A simple solution could be to add it to what is going to be the soil amendment. Creating something that can be second-used is also incredible. This is all getting us to this perspective of trying to take it from cradle to cradle. It is raised as food and becomes food again through soil or secondary use. That is where our thinking needs to be. We can emerge from what our present crisis is.

I’m here on the Central Coast of California. We mentioned this briefly when we were talking previously. We are flooded. We are getting atmospheric rivers coming back to back. A term I had never even heard before is a bomb cyclone, which hit Capitola and put the entire little jewel box city underwater. The waves were pummeling into the streets we are known to walk through.

These things are coming up with increasing frequency. These climate events are getting to a spot where we can be much more mindful of our consumerism. It’s getting to a point where we are integrating these cradle-to-cradle principles into how we construct our business, how we live as a society, and what we put in our trash bins, and creating solutions long-term that can make it easy for us.

I do home composting. I started with vermicomposting. It was tedious. I’m a little bit OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive. Going through the soil, picking out the worms, trying to find all of their individual little egg sacs, keeping them separate, going ahead, getting the black gold, and making the tea to water my garden took me a lot of time to do this the way I wanted to do it with the level of protection for the little critters in there. It would be ours.

I’m going to do turning the soil and get this simple garden-constructed unit that touches the soil. We have to physically stick shovels in to turn. We kept that up for another several years. I got to the point where I had more soil than I needed. I’m like, “What are we going to do with the excess?” I donated my worms to my friend, and I’m looking at what else I can do with the soil. We ended up spreading some of it in the undeveloped part of our land.

I’m the uber-green, but it is not pleasant. How many times a banana peel starts to smell, and you get the fruit flies that get into your bucket whether or not you want them to? Unless you are taking the compost scraps out every single day, you do get some smell, excess moisture is created, and methane. It is fine to take those food scraps and put them in with all our yard waste is fine, but the yard waste bin smells like chicken scraps or food scraps. It is not delightful.

Nature’s process is perfect and beautiful. You don’t want to mess with it too much. When you are living in a modern world, and you got a set amount of land, it has to be easy. I don’t think we have all the answers. The direction we are certainly heading in and aiming to head in is to simplify this. We supply a lot of cruise lines.

We had a lot of success in these commercial environments because it is an appliance that you put the food waste in. There is no additive. You don’t have to add microbes and liquids. It doesn’t increase water consumption. It doesn’t use any water at all. It uses electricity, and it is easy. It got a set cycle. It turns itself off. When we get into the home market and the residential market, the premise is like, “I want to put it in there and deal with.” That is an important factor for people to make it easy for them. The easier it is, the more successful these initiatives can certainly be.

I can’t wait for that moment. When you have that consumer home unit, I want to bring you back on so we can talk about it.

Maybe you can be one of our first trials. We will send you one.

I would say yes to that. I talk to my kids a lot about our food waste. We adopted three guinea pigs. My kitchen scraps have gone down a different composting route of light because they eat all of the carrot tops and the vegetable matter that I can come up with, aside from potatoes, which are toxic to them. It is a fun fact about guinea pigs.

They look like little potatoes with lettuce.

When you think about where they come from in Peru, you think, “They eat potatoes. This is where all the potatoes are.” No, they don’t eat potatoes. They also don’t eat avocados. I have these few items that they can’t consume from the kitchen, but for the most part, everything vegetable, they go. They are my little composters.

If every house had one chicken or a couple of chickens, that would be the ideal way to naturally spread compost on your grass while, at the same time, getting rid of your food scraps.

They eat everything from banana peels to whatever you put in front of the chickens.

We have a customer in New Orleans who installed our equipment. It s a smaller restaurant, but they are super green and sustainability-focused. They built this restaurant that got geothermal wells where they are heating water. They have drilled down, and they are heating or cooling the facility.

They are heating the facility with heat pumps and natural heat.

In the outdoors, they got these little woodfired pellet heaters. They have started putting out dehydrated material through the wood heaters and burning it as a mini fire log in the restaurant. It smells good, apparently. I wasn’t expecting that, but it is not an offensive smell. We are on the cusp of a lot of stuff happening.

Hopefully, this becomes the norm, and like the blue bin several years ago, it was such an inconvenience, and people didn’t want to be a part of it. A lot more accepted now, and consumers drive change, whether at home or when they are conscious of eating at a restaurant, choosing where they dine, and working with restaurants that you know have corporate social responsibilities. They are trying to be better restaurants. They are caring more and being better.

Be more conscious when choosing where restaurants you dine. They must have corporate social responsibilities in reducing and recycling food waste. Click To Tweet

Before we wrap, I would love for you to share with our audience how they can encourage the restaurants they dine at to use their scraps more responsibly. How can they push from the bottom for more change at their favorite spots?

I probably shouldn’t talk about it because it is not launched yet, but we are working on a certification for restaurants. If they have our technology and solutions in the back of the house, normally, the patrons would not be aware that the facility is equipped with our technology. We are in the process at the moment of developing certification. We called it Plate 2 Farm.

The concept behind Plate 2 Farm is that if restaurants subscribe to this certification, they can display that on their front door. They can have a certificate that shows that they are certified as a Plate 2 Farm restaurant and that 100% of their food is landfill-free. They are turning their food waste into an available commodity.

The plan would be for these restaurants who subscribe to this to use the Plate 2 Farm logo on their menus. They have a little cardboard A-frame on the tabletop. You go in, and you know that if you leave scraps on your plate, or if you are falling and don’t eat that last potato, carrot, or piece of meat, you can have that guilt-free dining experience for yourself. You know that no matter what happens, that stuff is going to be collected and diverted. It is not going to sit in a trash bag, rot in a dumpster and go to a landfill.

That is something that we are working on. I hope it takes off and consumers will become aware that there are things like that out there. Consumers can dine with a guilt-free mentality. At the same time, they can also put pressure on restaurant establishments and say, “Why aren’t you doing this? It is a duty to be recovering food waste.”

I have another question I’m asking of entrepreneurs focused on these sorts of solutions. What is your dream for the future? How is Hungry Giant part of realizing that dream?  

I would love to see technology like ours and even other companies that are competitors to us on the view that it is an abundant world out there. If you are adding value and doing things that are enriching our existence and experience, everyone can make money and do well. The dream is we can come up with practical ways to have technology like ours and others become common knowledge. We can see it is not hard to care more and be better.

View consumption and waste as a conscious buying experience. The consumer drives waste. Australia is still bad, but I’ve been shocked since moving to the US. In the Amazon era that we live in, just boxes come to our front door. We are guilty of it. I get things from Amazon. It will be the size of an AirPod container. It comes in a box this big with all this packaging in it. I’m like, “If we can buy consciously, we can drive down waste.” For the most part, we have only spoken about food and composting, but if you look at landfills, we are still using these things one time. It is a single-use economy. It gets picked up by a trash truck and gets taken to a hole in the ground. It is buried.

There are a lot of different recycling initiatives and transfer stations that source separately. They take out high-value commodities. There is a whole bunch of stuff that happens within that whole supply chain. For the most part, the amount of waste we are putting into a hole in the ground is shocking to me. I’m only a small fish in a big sea. I hope that our technology and competitors of ours can become more commonplace and we can have an impact in the context of food waste.

On a bigger level, I hope that technologies are developed to capture waste going to landfill. In my lifetime, I hope I see the energy from waste and landfills as something that we look back at it and go, “How did we do that for so long? How did we think that consuming on this side and sending it to a landfill was a great idea?”

Part of the problem is it is out of sight, out of mind. If any of your readers went on a landfill tour, they probably dry reach and vomit most of the time because it smells bad. You do not realize the amount of waste on a per capita basis that we create. Even people like you and I, who are trying to reduce our waste and reuse things, still have an impact. There are people that don’t even think about it. They were like, “I don’t care. It is in the container now. It is someone else’s problem.” I hope that changes.

I hope society changes the paradigm and people start to be more responsible because I got three young daughters. One of the ideologies that play on my mind is what is this world that they are going to grow up in? Not only in terms of AI and all that stuff happening at the moment. That freaks me out, but environmentally, we are temporary custodians of this pale blue dot.

Chris, I completely agree with you. Some of my earliest memories are of visiting the dump with my dad because he would be taking something that broke on the farm there. There is nothing in my mind that is more awful than the smell of a rotting orange. There are certain things in my life that I don’t think I will ever forget. The smell of a dump with a lot of food waste is atrocious.

If we can turn that into something else, the scent of dumpster juice could go away. It doesn’t have to be our reality. It can smell clean. We can have much less waste. We can create a better world. I got the chance to interview Mo Gawdat, who wrote the book Scary Smart. He was the Google X leader at Google for many years. I forget his exact title and everything else, but it is a book called Scary Smart and how we can teach artificial intelligence to be better for humanity as opposed to something terrible. It was a great interview. That episode aired several ago. It was one of my earlier episodes.

I have written down the name of the book because I’m on the side of the creative arts, journalism, script writing, research papers, and all of the stuff that relies on the human brain. I’m airing on the fearful side more than the reassuring side of how it can benefit society. I’m going to read that book and blog.

He is an incredible individual. He has his own podcast called Slo Mo. He interviews interesting people. He appeared on all sorts of top-tier podcasts. His argument about what can be accomplished with AI versus how it could turn into something terrible is understandable and relatable to people. He puts it in a language that helps you understand our responsibility for what AI will become. AI will feed and invent solutions to how we handle ways we haven’t even thought of yet. That is where things are going.

Scary Smart is a fantastic title for a book. People are scared. It is like when the internet started. It is like the Industrial revolution. People think we are going to be made redundant. The difference about this is the beautiful imperfection of human existence is that we are flawed. We have this intuition, soul, and creativity. I don’t know how AI can replicate that, but you look at some of the artwork that AI is creating, and you look at other stuff. It blows my mind what the future is. How is it going to look? I’m going to read the book and blog.

The beautiful imperfection of human existence is being flawed while still having intuition, soul, and creativity. Click To Tweet

Where should people go to learn more about everything Hungry Giant? Is it your website where you want to send them?

We are typically bad at marketing. We are not hugely prevalent on social media, but we should try and improve that. Talking to you is a great first step, but they can find us on our website. It is HungryGiantRecycling.com.

I like that you keep the word recycling in there because you recycle food. Thank you so much for joining me, Chris. Is there a closing thought you like to leave our audience with?

No, I have enjoyed this chat, Corinna. Thank you so much. It is fun.

I’m going to go ahead and mention a few reminders for our audience here as we close this show. I did launch the #BeBetterChallenge campaign in January 2023. Every Monday, I post a new Be Better Challenge. Those of you that follow on social already know that we have been on this topic of waste management, recycling, and things along those lines. I had the opportunity to host my first fundraiser as a part of this Be Better Challenge. I want to point out anybody who is reading this blog. You can go and make a contribution to Little Hill Sanctuary through that Facebook fundraiser. You could even create one of your own.

This is something that I want you to think about in the day-to-day because while I may not love all aspects of social media way, I may not agree with Meta or Facebook. I do like they cover the 3% charge that you would typically see from a credit card donation to any charity. I decided to go ahead and start a recurring donation to Little Hill Sanctuary to help them out in their time of need. I was blessed to know that fund is being matched by another generous donor. I know that Facebook is taking care of that 3% fee. One hundred percent of the money that I am putting forward into this every month is going directly to do the good work that Little Hill Sanctuary is doing. Take a look at that.

I also want to implore those that listen to the show to write us a review. This does a lot for us to help us emerge on the charts and reach more people. It adds credibility to the show. I have this inner goal of reaching 100 reviews. We are in the 60s now. If you could, go to Apple Podcasts and write us a review there. That would be phenomenal.

There are instructions on how to do this on our website. Visit CareMoreBeBetter.com. You will get the complete transcripts of this show and resources you won’t find anywhere else. You will also see the video and audio versions, links to subscribe on whatever podcasting platform you prefer, and a link to the fundraiser campaign. Thank you all now and always for being a part of this show and this community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more. We can be better. We can even solve our waste problems, turn our food into something new and regenerate the earth. Thank you.

 

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Guest

  • Chris O'Brien

    Chris O’Brien is the Founder of Hungry Giant, a cleantech business turning food waste into compostable foodstock, agricultural fertilizer and other reusable resources. An experienced professional and innovator of the waste and recycling industry, having built and sold several companies in Australia, Chris moved to the US to expand his US operations in 2018. Today the Hungry Giant has distributors all over the world that represent the brand, and the company continues to innovate technologies, most notably food waste technologies and provides innovative commercial solutions for handling and management of organics (food waste). The company specializes in grinding, transfer, dewatering and bio-dehydration systems and provides collection services for both processed and unprocessed food waste.

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