Machine Breaks Down Organic Waste
By John Booth ( Waste & Recycling News, October 12, 2009)
In less than a dozen words,
BioHitech America chief executive
officer Frank E. Celli manages
to wrap up his company’s
product description, operation
manual and sales pitch: “You
throw anything in the machine
that you could digest yourself.”
The machine is the GOHBio
1001 high-volume organic waste
decomposition system, an anaerobic
digestion chamber that
processes food waste and, within
24 hours, spits it out as water
that meets the standards for discharge
through ordinary drainage systems.
nearly three dozen of of them in
place at hotels, restaurants, supermarkets
and universities across the country, Allendale,
N.J.-based BioHitech is thinking bigger.
“We can potentially change the
way producers of organic waste
do business on a daily basis,”
Celli said. “And certainly, we can
have a positive environmental
GOHBio machines come in
three sizes, capable of processing
between 400 and 1,200 pounds of
organic material a day, and the
largest carries a $48,500 price
tag. By way of example, however,
BioHitech estimates that a company
throwing out 1,080 pounds
of food waste daily and paying an
$80 per ton disposal rate and a
$200 haul charge per pickup
could find the BioHitech system
paying for itself in just under two
and a half years.
And in some cases, that waste
reduction and its associated fuel
usage can count toward U.S.
Green Building Council’s Leadership
in Energy and Environmental
Design certification credits.
Wood chips serve as the habitat
for the microbial mix, which
BioHitech recharges four times a
year. The wood and any undigested
or inorganic material are
cleaned out every six months,
though the solid waste leftovers
are barely a pinch of what went
into the machine in the first
The effluent discharged from
GOHBio is typically about 100
gallons for every 1,200 pounds of
food broken down.
Celli — co-founder and former
head of Interstate Waste Services
Inc. — joined the Allendale,
N.J.-based company as a partner
in summer 2008.
BioHitech’s 2006 origins lie in
an overseas partnership: South
Korean scientest Chun Il Koh,
who created the GOHBio’s msystem
and the “microbial cocktail”
responsible for the decomposition,
was seeking an American
company to bring the product to
“My partners here at Bio-
Hitech had a very large food
waste collection business in New
York City,” Celli recalled. “They
were a logical choice [for a partner]
in that they already had an
extensive customer base.”
Despite the company’s potential,
BioHitech wrestled with
start-up issues ranging from
trouble-prone prototypes to lack
of a technical support infrastructure.
By the end of 2008, though,
it had found its footing and
launched pilot programs that offered
its machines for trial runs.
In November of that year, Bio-
Hitech earned the Innovations in
Green Technology award at the
International Hotel/Motel &
Restaurant Show in New York
and had more than a dozen of its
digesters in operation.
The GOHBio systems are manufactured
overseas by BioHitech
Celli estimates that by the
close of 2009, between 40 and 45
GOHBio machines will be in use
across the country, representing
a 150% jump from last year. And
of the 35 currently in operation,
only two are part of the pilot program.
No pilot program participants
have opted not to buy, rent or
lease the system after giving it a
try, Celli said.
The 7,800-student University
of San Diego installed a GOHBio
1001 this year in its LEED-certified
Student Life Pavilion.
“We’re processing roughly 700
to 800 pounds of items a day,”
said Andre Mallie, the university’s
executive director of auxiliary
Mallie said the machine has
significantly reduced solid waste
disposal and associated costs like
trash liners, and it has garnered
positive attention from customers
and local businesses.
“We’ve been getting quite a
few people looking at it,” he said.
“Quite often, we get the question,
‘What do you do with the leftovers?’
Now we have an education
piece hanging outside the
dishroom explaining it.”
Though Celli declined to specify
BioHitech’s estimated revenue
for the year, he backed off his
projection of $7 million to $10
million published in a story earlier
this year in The Record, a
newspaper based in Bergen, N.J.
“We won’t do that,” he said.
“That’s more a reasonable target