Fishery cuts waste while handling waste

Reusable bulk container enables sustainable public/private partnership

By ·

Every summer, thousands of anglers head to Algoma, Wis., on the shores of Lake Michigan to charter fishing boats then head home with the day’s catch. The trouble for this harbor town is managing scraps that commercial fisheries call offal. After the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanded the town improve waste handling practices, a new conveyor and bulk container system created a sustainable alternative to building a new treatment plant.

For the city workers tasked with handling the 120 tons of sewage waste generated annually, the fish scrap often clogged the sewage system and caused shutdowns that required manual cleaning and removal. It frequently overloaded the wastewater treatment plant, discharging untreated effluent into the lake. The EPA demanded that Algoma either build a new wastewater treatment plant or find some other solution.

Mayor Virginia Haske approached the Dramm Corp., which has a facility in Algoma where it turns fish scrap into an all-natural line of liquid fertilizers, and proposed that Dramm use the fish scraps generated locally for its fertilizer feedstock to divert the offal from the sewer system.

A new modern fish cleaning station at the marina allows fisherman to clean their catch and discard waste on a conveyor belt that deposits it into a bulk plastic container in a walk-in cooler. The plastic container (MODRoto, can hold upwards of 1,000 pounds. And, it doesn’t require a pallet when a lift truck loads full containers stacked two-high onto outbound trucks.

At the plant, the containers are set on a lift table that dumps the fish scrap into an auger for processing. The waterproof containers are rinsed, nested and returned to the fish cleaning station. For the return trips, 130 empty containers fit in a single trailer.

“These containers are durable, they don’t bow out and the covers fit so well that we can stack them two-high in transit without any spillage,” says a Dramm representative. “Now we can get more than 30 in a trailer from our suppliers. With the container’s high strength-to-weight ratio, we’re transporting more fish scrap per truckload by weight.”

After nearly eight years in operation, the system has diverted approximately 500 tons of fish scrap from the sewage system, rendered a new plant unnecessary and helped protect Lake Michigan from further contamination.

“Our suppliers treat the containers rougher than we’d like, but these containers have held up well over years of use,” Dramm says. “Their life expectancy is far longer than any container we’ve ever used.”

About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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