An ORCA is making a splash in the heart of Phoenix.

The Phoenix Convention Center is the first major convention center in the United States to install an Organic Refuse Conversion Alternative (ORCA) machine, which converts food waste into an organic liquid that need not to be transported to landfills and can even be used as a nutrient-rich effluent matter.

Housed in a stainless steel box the size of a household refrigerator, the ORCA machine can reduce about 2,000 pounds of food waste to a gray-water effluent each day. The process by which it does so is similar to outdoor composting. The ORCA creates an ideal biodegradable environment by churning food waste together with fresh water and bio-chips that activate thousands of micro-organisms.

The resulting wastewater can safely be disposed of through the sanitary sewer system, or it can be passed on to companies that specialize in gardening products that use food byproducts to foment lush organic growth.

For a facility as large as the Phoenix Convention Center—where the catering staff can feed 360 people every 8 minutes—disposing of food waste is an expensive practice that consumes many resources. The ORCA’s decomposition process not only reduces operating expenses, it significantly offsets the convention center’s carbon footprint.

Corby Stephens, general manager of Aventura, the company that handles catering for the Phoenix Convention Center, stated that the new innovation changes the food industry’s approach to an age-old problem.

“The ORCA machine 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,” he said. 

The addition of the ORCA machine to the Phoenix Convention Center’s kitchen operations is the facility’s latest leap toward giving meeting groups the greenest possible experience. The convention center’s campus features a LEED-certified conference center, solar panels, a water-harvesting garden, a sophisticated energy-consumption tracking system, and a comprehensive recycling program. Chairs are made from recycled car batteries and seat belts, tablecloths are made from old plastic bottles, and catered meals are made from locally grown produce whenever possible.

“Sustainability efforts like putting an ORCA machine in the convention center’s kitchen don’t just increase ROI for the center itself, they lead to increased ROI for the community as a whole,” said Steve Moore, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The convention center’s green reputation helps us attract national associations and meeting groups who care about sustainability, and there are a lot of those out there.”

For more information about the Phoenix Convention Center’s sustainability initiatives and planning green meetings in America’s Sunniest Metropolis, visit