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Facilities Update
Orca Comes To The Phoenix Convention Center

ORCA, the Organic Refuse Conversion Alternative (ORCA) machine, a food waste disposal system, is now in use at the Phoenix Convention Center (PCC). The addition of the ORCA machine, which biologically converts organic food waste into a nutrient rich liquid through an accelerated decomposition process, represents a huge leap in sustainability for the convention center, keeping the facility on the cutting-edge of sustainable operations.

Contained within a stainless steel box the size of a refrigerator, the ORCA has the capability of decomposing 2,000 pounds of food waste into a liquid effluent each day. The process employs principles that are similar to outdoor composting. The ORCA creates a perfect biodegradable environment by churning food waste, fresh water, and bio-chips that activate thousands of micro-organisms; through a process that converts food waste into safe wastewater. Phoenix is the first major convention center in the United States to use this food waste disposal system.

PCC, along with Aventura Catering, the center’s exclusive food and beverage provider, hosts hundreds of food functions on an annual basis; as with most convention centers food waste is an inevitable byproduct that needs to be managed accordingly. According to John Chan, director of the Phoenix Convention Center, “After extensive research and analysis PCC in conjunction with Aventura embarked on this project because it supports the collective vision of utilizing innovation and technology to create greater efficiencies in our operations.”

While dealing with food waste has traditionally been an expensive practice that consumes many resources; the ORCA’s revolutionary process reduces PCC’s operating expenses and offsets their carbon footprint significantly. Corby Stephens, general manager of Aventura Catering, is excited to see how new innovation is changing the course of an age old problem, “As Aventura and PCC continue to partner on new and innovative ideas, sustainability is always at the forefront of our thinking. Through the creative process came the idea of figuring out how we can compost given the extreme summer temperatures. This idea led us into researching multiple ideas and eventually deciding on the ORCA machine, which allows us to handle food waste from large events in an eco-friendly and cost effective manner, helping divert tons of organic waste from ever hitting our landfills.”

As populations increase, municipalities like Phoenix are looking for alternative solutions to preserving landfill capacities by managing waste through greater innovation. The ORCA provides a sustainable solution for high density urban areas compared to the traditional landfill environments where most food waste is hauled to for composting. Hauling food waste to landfills increases fossil fuels, creates additional toxins to the environment, and increases operating costs. Conversely, the ORCA uses minimal water and electricity, reduces disposal costs, and enhances kitchen operational efficiencies. With the return on investment in approximately 2.5 years, the ORCA compliments PCC’s proactive approach towards operating a more environmentally sustainable venue.

About the Phoenix Convention Center & Venues:

The award-winning Phoenix Convention Center is one of the 25 largest convention venues in the United States. It offers nearly 900,000 sq. ft. of rentable meeting and exhibition space and can accommodate 80% of the convention meetings market. Established in 1969, the Phoenix Convention Center is a critical economic enterprise for the state and local economy. The Phoenix Convention Center & Venues include the Phoenix Convention Center, Executive Conference Center - Downtown Phoenix, Symphony Hall, the Orpheum Theatre and five parking garages.
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