By Michael Keleman
Manager of Environmental Engineering, Marketing/Business Development at InSinkErator

I always had a mind and passion for science, and started my undergraduate degree at Purdue University, located in my home town, to become an engineer.

Well, I ended up getting a degree in Environmental Health Science and was involved in municipal wastewater treatment in Indiana for over 16 years.

From wastewater lab tech to food waste disposal advocate

I was first a lab tech analyzing wastewater for six years in Lafayette, then a superintendent in Fremont for three years, and later the same in Angola for six more years; then eventually an operations supervisor in Elkhart.

I then joined InSinkErator in 2007 and with their support went back to school to get my master’s in science in environmental engineering at MSOE.

I was hired to oversee our research and communications to help consumers and wastewater professionals better understand the impacts of food waste disposers.

Repositioning to sustainability

Now we are essentially repositioning the category of food waste disposers as more than an appliance of convenience to instead a sustainability tool to help divert food waste from landfills and accomplish resource recovery at wastewater treatment plants.

After spending the first part of my career filling knowledge gaps and defending the use of disposers, we are now actively promoting their use around the world.

the greenhouse gas science: landfills vs. disposers

In 2011 we commissioned a comprehensive lifecycle assessment that determined sending food waste to any one of eight types of treatment plants via a disposer results in lower greenhouse gas emissions than landfilling.

Our latest research was published in the Journal of Environmental Management, and you can read the abstract here: Modeling the impact of food wastes on wastewater treatment plants.

Essentially, it quantifies a net energy gain from sending food waste through disposers to treatment plants with anaerobic digestion, a potential reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus in treated effluent, and net lower overall costs for the utility.

What’s your water tech story?

Our mission at The Water Council is to build connections for our global water cluster and help our members achieve success. From piloting to researching, from innovative approaches to solving challenges, we know many of you have an interesting story to tell. If you’d like to share yours, we’d love to feature you. All you have to do is email the friendly marketing team a draft of your story, and we’ll follow up–promise!