Why Food Waste Is Not Waste At All

When businesses think about recycling and zero waste, food waste is not one of the first things that comes to mind versus the obvious materials such as paper, plastic, cardboard and aluminum, before considering food waste.

If your business is already recycling paper, bottles and cans, adding food scraps collections is the natural next step as recycling food and other organic waste is financially beneficial for your business. This is because you’ll be diverting the heaviest fraction of waste away from landfill, significantly reducing your waste disposal costs (which are calculated on a cost per ton).

Think about it from this perspective. Various studies have calculated that the average cost to dispose of a ton of food waste is $3,600 (taking into account the initial procurement of the goods, labor, utilities and final disposal costs).

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste is the second largest category of municipal solid waste sent to landfills in the United States. Food waste accounts for approximately 22% of the waste stream, while only 5% is currently diverted from landfills. Over 30 million tons of food waste is sent to landfills each year.

Food waste isn’t just an issue for the restaurant industry, but for all commercial businesses and residential buildings that produce food. There’s a growing trend for states and cities to ban commercial food waste disposal and mandates of residential separated curbside collection programs are occurring across the United States.

Five states – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont and California – have all implemented bans on food waste in landfills in the past five years. New York and New Jersey introduced similar bills and several others states are considering doing the same. Recently, eighty state-level, food-waste related bills were introduced in the United States, as well as the country’s first federal food waste bill. Additionally, Oregon Metro, the regional government for the Portland area, passed a policy that requires some businesses to divert food scraps.

These efforts are being put into place to reduce methane emissions produced by decomposing organic waste in landfills, to save resources associated with food production, to eliminate food loss and to return the beneficial nutrients in food waste to the soil. So, is your company ready to comply?

Having an organics recycling program will help your business to promote an image of environmental sustainability to its clients and employees.

By properly managing and reducing food waste, your business can save money in hauling fees. The three areas of food diversion that all industries can benefit from are prevention, composting and donation.

Options to Reduce Food Waste

The best way to start reducing food waste is to reduce the volume of food waste produced.

Restaurants have seen the benefits of reducing the number of menu items, reducing portion sizes, and using proper storage practices. Supermarkets also benefit by improving their storage practices and discounting items as they get close to their expiration dates. Tracking the quantity, timing and quality of food deliveries is also beneficial in both industries.

Commercial businesses and residential buildings can take steps to reduce the amount of food waste in their trash by placing separate bins designated for food scraps. Clearly marking these bins helps to spread awareness and promote the new program.

Food waste is easily biodegradable, making composting a beneficial treatment method for diverting food waste from landfill. Food scraps can be separated and treated in on- site composting facilities, or can be sent to external composting sites for other companies to convert them into nutrient rich soil supplements or farm feed.

Examples of Acceptable Food Waste

  • Produce
  • Seafood
  • Dairy
  • Meat
  • Bakery
  • Coffee grounds
  • Coffee filters, tea bags and napkins

A third effort in food diversion is donation. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, an estimated 50 million Americans lack access to sufficient food on a daily basis. By donating safe, in date food to food banks or other organizations, this will both reduce the quantity of food that your business sends to landfills and help those in need – you’ll be feeding people, not landfills! If you donate your food to a qualified charity, your business can also receive tax benefits. Additionally, there are laws in place that significantly limit the liability for donors.

At National Waste Associates, our waste and recycling services are tailored for businesses with multiple locations. We understand that managing food waste is complicated in today’s marketplace, which is why we design customized minimization and recycling plans based on the individual requirements at each location.

We conduct an initial assessment of each site’s current practices, then set goals to continuous reduction of volumes.

For more information on food waste recycling and to learn how National Waste Associates can reduce your waste costs with our professionally managed services and recycling programs, call 1-888-692-5005 x 6 or email sales@nationalwaste.com.

© 2021 National Waste Associates