You can also consider joining the EPA’s WasteWise program as a partner and agree to reduce or recycle municipal solid waste throughout your waste stream. This free challenge is similar to ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager – building owners track their waste generation and work toward a specific benchmark to improve diversion rates.
5 Best Practices to Divert Organic Waste
Look at waste food as a resource instead of something to throw away. You need to find partners who see scraps and trimmings as a commodity rather than refuse. Here are five options to rescue food waste from your trash bins.
1) Think about food waste before it even hits the table. Smart use of food is critical no matter the size of your operations. Purchase and prepare only what you need, which is easier said than done. Work with colleagues across your organization in dining services to document how food needs are anticipated and brainstorm ways to make preparation more efficient. For example, Wartburg College in Waverly, IA, switched to trayless dining in its cafeterias. Students had to be more selective about how much food they took, which ultimately reduced the amount of scraps thrown away.
2) Pre-consumer food that is left over should be donated to food banks, such as Feeding America. These organizations can pick up items at your facility in many cases. While there can be concern about the liability of donating food if someone gets sick, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was created to encourage the donation of food and grocery products to 501(c)3 certified non-profit organizations. As long as the donor has not acted with negligence or intentional misconduct, the company is not liable for damage incurred as the result of illness.
3) Waste food can be used for livestock, so consider donating or selling the material to a farm or animal feed producer. In Bartow, FL, a company called Organic Matters takes in food waste from both high-volume waste producers and smaller companies. They convert scraps into feed for chickens and cattle through a dehydration process.
4) One of the best options for organic waste is anaerobic digestion, which produces energy from food waste. “If 50% of the food waste generated each year in the U.S. was anaerobically digested, enough electricity would be generated to power 2.5 million homes for a year,” notes the EPA. “By anaerobically digesting food waste, two valuable products – renewable energy and soil amendment – can be generated.” See if your municipal solid waste or wastewater treatment plant offers this option.
5) Composting is what many first think of when they consider food waste diversion. There are a number of composting types: on-site composting, vermicomposting, aerated composting, and in-vessel composting. Vermicomposting is an interesting solution and is becoming commercially viable. This option uses red worms (not nightcrawlers or field worms found in gardens) that are placed in bins with organic matter in order to break it down into a high-value compost called castings.
Only as a last resort should food be sent to the landfill or incinerators to dispose of it. There are too many other opportunities to create a closed loop lifecycle for food waste.
Dina Belon is the director of the Seattle office at Paladino and Company, a sustainability consulting firm. She is a LEED Accredited Professional with an Interior Design & Construction specialty. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.