Tag Archives: Food Waste Challenge

NYC Food Waste Challenge Sort

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Back in November, Action Environmental hosted an event at their recycling facility in the Bronx in conjunction with NYC’s Food Waste Challenge to help the city quantify their diversion potential.

The NYC Food Waste Challenge is a pilot program that solicits voluntary participation from restaurants willing to commit at least 50% of its food waste to a composting facility instead of the landfill. Over 100 restaurants have committed, each agreeing to meet the 50% targets, recording waste data and communicating obstacles and successes. The city hopes this will serve as a feedback loop that will set the groundwork toward sustainable waste management.

Organized by the NYC Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability and Global Green smelly trash bags were collected from a cross-section of restaurants across Manhattan and volunteers were tasked with opening, separating, categorizing, weighing and recording what was found.

The first few bags, filled with mixtures of food (cooked and expiring) and recyclables and trash, were an assault on the volunteer’s senses and after 4 grueling hours, over 50 bags of restaurant garbage were separated into diversion potential categories.  The Mayor’s Office is still crunching the numbers, but the mini mountains of non-landfill categories made NYC’s diversion potential evident to the naked eye. With some organization and education, NYC could achieve the City’s Landfill Waste Diversion goal of 75%.

A 75% diversion goal may seem high, especially since NYC’s diversion levels have actually fallen over the last decade. According to the Mayor’s Management Reports, NYC’s curb-side recycling has dropped 50%, from 35.1% in 2002 to 16.6% at the end of 2012. New York City has some unique challenges that other cities don’t face but the possibility for improvement is there.

Recently the Department of Sanitation piloted a compost collection program in public schools and several residential neighborhoods throughout the city. The results are promising. However, the city believes that without getting restaurants on board the city won’t reach its goal. According to the Mayor’s Office, the majority of restaurants do not compost because the services and infrastructure aren’t in place. Additionally, if a restaurant wanted to compost it would have to pay additional hauler costs, further cutting into their small margins. The Sustainable Restaurant Corps is working with restaurants to find a viable solution to this problem.

If the goal is to divert food waste from landfill, the Eco-Safe Digester is one solution.  It makes economic sense, meets health department requirements and is better for the environment.

After a long day at the transfer station it is evident that the city’s services and infrastructure need to improve, more efficient technology needs to be put in place, and restaurants need to redefine their processes and create better recycling habits.

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A Food Waste Challenge

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General Mills is doing more for the public than just making Lucky Charms. The large-scale food corporation has recently jumped on board with the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program represents a call for the better distribution and use of food by removing it from the waste stream.  General Mills and the others involved aim to reduce the amount of food waste going into landfills, reuse some of the waste to combat hunger, and recycle the remaining food scraps for energy generation and clean water generation among other uses.

General Mills’ involvement in this program does not represent the first time the large-scale corporation is working on shrinking its waste footprint. As a member of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, the company had already been reducing its solid waste and has a plan to cut its totals in half by 2015.  Their efforts began in 2005, and to date have diverted from landfill and donated more than 23 million pounds of food to charities all over the United States.

General Mills is not the only corporation involved in this program.  Unilever North America has pledged to either divert for donation to Feeding America or divert for conversion to energy all of the food waste generated from their 22 U.S. food processing and manufacturing plants and headquarter offices.  Wakefern Food Corp a cooperative comprised of 48 members who individually own and operate more than 250 supermarkets under the ShopRite banner in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware has outlined objectives surrounding donating and recycling.  Many of their stores have already installed the Eco-Safe Digester, an on-site solution that transforms waste into nutrient neutral water that can safely be disposed of via conventional sanitary sewer systems where it is then converted into energy, clean water or compost.

This USDA is also hoping that companies likes General Mills will work to improve their supply-chain network to create faster and more direct routes to Feeding America.  A challenge many food manufacturers and suppliers face today. The program also hopes to engage consumers and educate them on the benefits of reducing the creation of food waste.

The actions made by both GM and the USDA indicate a growing focus on the waste industry. Not only does this program mean for a greener environment, but it also means for a better United States, as we help those who are in need. It provides for a solution to two extremely important national issues. And this is only the beginning.

The USDA is hoping to have 400 partner organizations by 2015 and 1,000 by 2020.