Monthly Archives: May 2013

Feeding People


From time to time I come across inspired stories challenging me to consider using food waste to solve a hunger problem as opposed to a disposal or diversion from landfill problem.  Dana, the founder of Food Shift, has worked for over a decade to develop long-term sustainable solutions to recover and redistribute excess food waste.  She has developed a great, scalable model that uses food abundance to feed the hungry rather than go to waste.

Food waste is a major, major issue, not just nationally but globally. Especially considering how many around the world die of starvation, Food Shift hopes to shift the focus and money spent on disposal to a new form of thinking and recovery.

Feeding People Not Trash Cans…

Despite national efforts to alleviate hunger and reduce food waste, these problems persist and are in fact more heightened than ever before. We are throwing away 40% of all the food we produce while 50 million Americans don’t have adequate access to food.

In addition to the absurd amount of lost nutrition and environmental damage as a result of food waste, we’re spending $750 million each year just to dispose of all this food.

What if businesses and municipalities were to shift just a fraction of these funds towards the recovery and redistribution of excess food instead?

This requires a shift in our thinking around both food recovery and food assistance. For decades, we have relied on charity groups to address these massive challenges of food waste and hunger. Despite their obvious value, most food recovery groups in the U.S. provide a free service, receive limited financial support and depend on volunteer commitments to operate. This structure is unsustainable and limits their ability to expand, increase impact, purchase necessary infrastructure, provide wages, and effectively tackle a crisis of this magnitude.

That is why Food Shift is working so hard to shift the paradigm around food recovery and food assistance from one that is volunteer and hand-out based to one that focuses on jobs and self-sufficiency. Food Shift is developing innovative food recovery models that generate revenue so individuals can be trained and employed in the process.

This idea, to recover and redistribute food makes sense.  It is a way to reduce waste disposal costs, a way to receive tax deductions, and benefits the community and environment.  Food Shift’s strategies embrace the potential of food to be used as a tool to empower people and strengthen communities.

On behalf of Food Shift, please join them in the movement to shift the abundance of food in our nation away from trash cans and toward empowerment and opportunity. Together we can increase awareness about the social and environmental impacts of wasted food and inspire us all to be part of the solution!

Connecticut to Try Again?


Connecticut lawmakers are considering a massive expansion of food waste composting.

Hold on a Second.  An expansion to an already tried and failed first attempt?  What is different now?

Connecticut believes if they send a clearer message to the universe about how serious they are about wanting to compost then this will produce a heightened level of interest from composting facilities looking to establish themselves in the state.

So for now, the new legislation would force large-scale food operations and supermarkets located within 20 miles of a composting facility to recycle all their food scraps by 2020.   I guess every little bit helps, but with only two food waste composting facilities operating in the state, what’s the point?  At 70 miles wide and 110 miles long, Connecticut would have to build a minimum of 30 compost facilities to make this worth the effort.

Under current law, food wholesalers, manufacturers, supermarkets and conference centers are only required to recycle organics if a process facility is located within 20 miles of their business.  The new legislation is aimed at further incentivize composting facilities to do business in Connecticut by setting the year 2020 as when all generators, regardless of volume, will need to divert all food waste from landfills.

The law is intended to welcome new facilities and to signal that the department and the state is serious about building an infrastructure to close the food scrap recycling gap and make sure that they’ve got that infrastructure in place by 2020.

Connecticut  believes that this revised law is a huge incentive for composting and waste-to-energy facilities to bring their business to Connecticut.

For more information the whole article can be read in its entirety here:

Joshua Tree Saved


Joshua Tree National Park located in Twentynine Palms California is only 142 miles west of Los Angeles and a great ride for a day trip to see desert, mountains and wilderness.  For the last 20 years, this beautiful national park has been in jeopardy of losing a battle to house a 4,000 acre mega-dump for garbage generated by residents of Los Angeles.

Thankfully 20 years of opposition has finally come to an end, thanks to the growth of innovative waste disposal technologies (like the Eco-Safe Digester) and increased recycling.

LA sanitation ends plans for dump near Joshua Tree

May 2013—A regional garbage collection agency has tossed out plans to build a mega-landfill for Los Angeles’ trash less than two miles from Joshua Tree National Park in the remote Southern California desert.

Increased recycling and new waste treatment technologies have reduced the need to open the 4,000-acre landfill on former mining land in Eagle Mountain.  At capacity, plans called for 20,000 tons of garbage to be shipped to the landfill by train each day—enough to fill 375 freight cars—for a period of 117 years. However, things have changed in LA County, there isn’t the crisis as far as landfill capacity as there was in 2000.

It had been opposed in court for more than 20 years by local farmers and environmentalists, who pointed out that the dump would be surrounded on three sides by the park, a national treasure known around the world for its bizarre, spindly-armed Joshua trees.

Opponents argued the landfill and associated train and truck traffic around the dump would wreak havoc on the delicate desert ecosystem and attract scavengers like ravens, which snack on the hatchlings of desert tortoises, a federally threatened species.

This is great news for Joshua Tree National Park.

Pathway to Zero Waste


Any pathway to zero waste requires a shift in thinking.  This shift in thinking is being harnessed by Massachusetts evident in their finalized 2020 solid waste plan.

Previously Massachusetts treated waste as waste but thanks to their forward-looking plan, those days are not only about to end but include the suggestion that cutting-edge technology like the Eco-Safe Digester should play a bigger role in the plan.

Every year, Massachusetts disposes enough trash in landfills to fill 74 Fenway Parks.  The disposal of that much material carries a large cost to the environment and the taxpayer wallet which is why The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) is forcing a ban on organics.  By reducing waste and by recycling more, Massachusetts believes they can reduce their need for overall disposal capacity and reduce the amount of waste they will need to ship to other states for disposal as their landfill capacity diminishes.

The highlights for their zero waste goals include the following absolute findings…

  • As a state they can no longer afford traditional methods of managing waste.
  • Diverting organic materials from landfills can make an important contribution to reducing methane releases from those landfills.
  • Diverting a target of 35% of source separated organics by 2020 is more than 350,000 tons per year of additional diversion activity.
  • Transporting leftover food materials long distances is not a suggested or smart solution.
  • To process 350,000 additional tons per year by means of compost would require up to 8-10 additional 100 ton per day facilities to be cited, funded, located and built.
  • Diversion may be accomplished through diverting leftover food through the wastewater system, using technology like an on-site digester similar to the Eco-Safe Digester, which will solve the need to build additional and costly composting or anaerobic digestion facilities. 

Massachusetts believes they can do more to divert materials from disposal and direct material toward an active and productive second-life in their economy.  In doing so, they will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve natural resources, and save energy, while at the same time spurring the expansion of businesses and jobs and reduce disposal costs for waste generators and municipalities.

The entire 2020 Solid Waste Master Plan can be found on their website.



It may take a celebrity to change how we act, but he certainly has a good point.

This recap from this year’s Fortune Brainstorm Green Conference was posted on on May 7, 2013 and written by Suzanne Shelton. 

There was no shortage of celebrities at this year’s Fortune Brainstorm Green Conference.  Harrison Ford started us off by talking about the work of Conversation International, Adam Gardner of Guster filled us in onReverb, his new company designed to make concerts more sustainable, and brought us to a close. I think was there to talk about EKOCYCLE, but he wound up delivering one of the most important insights of the conference, in my view:

“Be a verb.”

Thankfully, he paused and then said, “If you don’t know what I mean, Google it.”

His point was that sustainability should be about action and that action should be synonymous with brands. Although he didn’t say it quite like this, what I took him to mean was if your sustainability efforts aren’t obvious in your company’s actions, and your company’s not known for them, they’re not very effective.

This is really important. I found myself searching for the shining examples of mainstream companies who have embraced sustainability to the point that it’s synonymous with their brand and they’re widely known for it, but I didn’t find them. There were many enormous companies doing good things from a sustainability perspective and creating excellent innovations rooted in sustainability thinking, but not anybody who’s crossed the threshold into baking sustainability into their brand’s DNA. Conversely, there were the smaller challenger companies — such as Method and Patagonia — for whom sustainability always has been fundamental to their essence, and who are continuing to challenge the status quo. But not much in the middle.

Here’s my take: I think mainstream companies are really, really struggling with the fundamental problem of how to claim sustainability as a pillar of their brands while also driving to sell more stuff — stuff that consumes diminishing resources and winds up in landfills. I don’t have an easy answer for any of them, although I think the answer lies in’s point. And I think Coca-Cola may be closer than anyone to cracking the nut.

Here’s why: Obviously, Coke (and others) have been under fire for our nation’s obesity problems, which is a very expensive health issue. Guess what else is a very expensive health issue? Unclean water. Roughly half of hospital beds globally are filled with patients suffering from water-borne illnesses. If Coke can clean up water, they can solve a very expensive health issue, deliver a basic human right to millions who don’t have it AND ensure the main ingredient for their products is readily available. They’re actually doing this. They’ve invested in a company called DEKA, which is creating these amazing units that quite literally can take sewer water and turn it into potable water using very little energy and no chemicals. The product’s inventor turned to governments and health care companies to get the support he needed to build the units and got turned down by everyone. Coke saw the value proposition, and now something very tangible, game-changing and real is happening.

How’s that for being a verb?

Ekocycle aims to make sustainability living more cool.

Collaboration vs Independence


In 2007, the city of San Jose California was looking at a goal of 100% waste diversion from landfills by 2022 and adopted its Green Vision Goal. While the residential rate has hit 80% this year the commercial side has only reached 22%.

The biggest problem for the city was it had an open market system for commercial hauling, which resulted in 20-25 haulers operating in the city. They were seeing a lot of trucks on the road, rates all over the ma, and a variety of services but very little incentive to actually recycle, Kerrie Romanow, Director of the San Jose Department of Environmental Services declared, “it was just as easy to not recycle.”

So, the city chose Phoenix-based Republic Services Inc. as its exclusive commercial hauler. The benefits to the city have been enormous which included a commitment from Republic to convert its area fleet to compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles to help cut down on pollution.

To handle the anticipated significant increase of material, Republic renovated their Milpitas facility, which can now process 110 tons of waste per hour, the largest recycling operation in the world.

To improve and increase commercial recycling to San Jose’s 8,000 businesses, Republic came up with a two-container wet/dry sort program. Wet items, food waste and landscape trimmings,  go in one container, and everything else in the other.

For the city’s part, dealing with just one hauler allowed the two parties to more clearly set expectations and achieve San Jose’s Green Vision Goal. Republic took responsibility for informing the individual businesses about the need to recycle and how to properly sort the materials on site.

Zero Waste Energy Development currently is composting the organic material that’s being diverted but it is building the first commercial scale dry fermentation anaerobic digestion facility which is scheduled to open late this year. Zero Waste will then convert the organics portion of the commercial waste collected to energy.

City officials took some early bold steps in a bad economy but the success San Jose has had in commercial recycling could happen anywhere. All it takes is a strong partnership between the city and the hauler.  There needs to be a commitment on all sides.

San Jose projects an 80% diversion commercially by July 1, 2013. The education and fine-tuning will continue as the city aims toward 100%, a figure that sits a long way from San Jose’s former commercial recycling rate.


April 29, 2013, Waste Age 360

Zero Waste Doesn’t Mean Zero Haulers


As more of our nation’s cities move toward zero waste policies, the traditional hauling and disposal industry is faced with the tough decision: ADAPT OR DIE.

“There’s a lot of room for the industry to continue to evolve,” said Jay Coalson, executive director of the Zero Waste Alliance. “I don’t think you have to look any further than Waste Management [Inc.] They are clearly transforming their business to be much more of a service provider around the waste stream than they are a waste hauler.”

While Waste Management is clearly not the only company adopting integrated waste management practices, there are still some waste companies that continue to rely on profits from landfill disposal rates and high waste volumes.

“If your business model is predicated on continued land-filling, you’re not going to be in business very long, you’re going to have to diversify,” said Walter Willis, executive director of the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, Ill. “I think it’s the companies that are looking ahead, investing in the right technologies, that will continue to be successful or will be successful in the future.”

Many in the industry agree that, in a world headed toward greener waste management practices, it’s important for companies to stay ahead of the curve.

“It’s no different than any business where you’re in an evolving market in that you have to be willing to put your stake in the ground about where your industry is going to be a decade from now and then start making the appropriate investments,” Coalson said. “And I think this is really much more about providing services and technologies that allow companies to more effectively manage their waste stream than it is about picking stuff up and carrying it away.”

For companies still relying on high landfill volume, change will likely be forced on them.

“As far as the whole reliance on landfill tipping fees for funding state and local programs, I think all of us that are beholden to that source of funding recognize that it’s doomed over time, and it really has nothing to do with the zero waste movement,” Willis said.

Whether a city has a zero waste goal or is simply trying to increase recycling rates, the days of growing pounds per capita per day disposed at landfills are likely over, he said.

“More and more things are being banned from the landfills; the great recession had a big impact on disposal rates and they really haven’t bounced back.”

And if a company is behind the curve in adopting more sustainable waste services, it will make any transformation that much harder, Coalson said.

“If you wait until the waste policy is in place and then you have to react quickly, that is going to be a much riskier and more expensive path to meeting what is clearly becoming a more consistent expectation within the communities that you serve,” he said.

Some cities with zero waste goals try to reach them by either increasing landfill tipping fees or passing legislation that makes recycling mandatory.

“Companies that are stuck in more traditional models of burying material are going to have to change how they operate their businesses and look more like Recology,” said Adam Alberti, spokesman for the San Francisco-based company. “That is where the trend is going. It’s about reuse, recycling, finding higher and better uses of a material that is discarded, and moving as much as possible away from just burying it in a hole.”

Gary Liss, a zero waste consultant out of California, says mandatory recycling laws can be beneficial to both municipalities and businesses.

“By adopting those ordinances, the communities have created the demand for the service, and the private sector has taken that requirement to the bank,” he said. “They create the market demand for the [recycling] services and the facilities, strongly supporting the development of the infrastructure.”

By working together with Recology, San Francisco greatly increased its recycling rate to the point where zero waste may actually be an option.

“San Francisco really is a leader in this field. Both its collection company Recology and the city itself have already gotten a great deal of the way toward zero waste by achieving an 80% recycling rate,” Alberti said.

Though it’s not always easy for waste companies to move from a reliance on land-filling to integrated waste systems, there is no question that the industry is heading into a more sustainable direction, and has been even before the zero waste movement took off in recent years, Willis said.

“At some point we will exceed our ability to provide resources for everyone to have a decent lifestyle, and that either leads to war or more efficient use. … Waste not want not is what America is all about,” Liss said.

Waste Recycling News, May 2013