Tag Archives: Food Waste Diversion

Revolutionize Your Waste Service

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From a business perspective, there is an enormous opportunity to save money with a proper organics management process.   Large volumes of food waste are disposed of each day, which is why when organics are managed and then analyzed great opportunities abound.

Governments are finally recognizing that in order to achieve success with their ambitious recycling goals those goals must include organics.

States like Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island, and cities like New York City are going about it the right way, by focusing more on the commercial end where the most tonnage is.

There will be challenges that will need to be overcome. The marketplace for the landfill-diverted waste is immature, recovery sites are not widespread and in some cases virtually non-existent. Government laws and regulations are inconsistent, and collection, processing and marketing aren’t as well thought out as they should be.

For those states and cities forging forward alternate disposal methods need to be sought out. The Eco-Safe Digester is a reliable and easy-to-operate aerobic digester that eliminates food waste on-site. It requires no third party to dispose of the food waste, requires no on-road transportation, and more importantly is the only diversion solution that delivers information about what is wasted in order to prevent it altogether.

While there is not one solution that will work for everyone, companies should be shopping around for an end-to-end solution that works best for them. In the meantime infrastructure development will likely start picking up speed because of the effects of the recent government policy decisions.

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WeCare Organics Delivering Everything BUT Green

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Beginning in the summer of 2010, tons of organic waste, set aside by residents of suburban Toronto, were hauled away by an upstate New York company that promised to turn the waste into rich, valuable compost to enrich soil and fertilize plants. Instead, a new lawsuit alleges, the organic waste was unceremoniously buried at Seneca Meadows Landfill in Seneca County.

Now the Regional Municipality of York wants $6 million in compensation for the diversion, which their lawsuit flatly labels “fraud.”

At issue is an ambitious organics recycling program by York Region, a community of 1.1 million people north of the city of Toronto. Residents there were given toters into which were to place food waste, paper and certain other materials that will break down during composting. The municipality hired several companies, including WeCare Organics of upstate New York, to take away this waste and compost it.

WeCare Organics was to be paid $158 a ton to compost up to 30,000 tons a year at its facility in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Rochester on Dec. 27, York Region officials received an “anonymous tip” in January 2012 that WeCare wasn’t hauling that organic waste all the way to Marlborough for transformation into environmentally friendly compost.

Officials determined a month later that virtually all of the organic waste hauled away by WeCare had instead wound up at Seneca Meadows, New York’s largest landfill, the lawsuit alleges. This was news to York, and by the spring of 2012, the contract between the municipality and WeCare had been terminated.

That leaves the small matter of $6 million, which is the amount that WeCare allegedly billed the municipality between July 2010 and April 2012.

In its suit, York claims WeCare officials lied when they promised to compost the material and defrauded the municipality by submitting invoices claiming they were doing so.

The legal papers note that composting organics is more expensive than simply burying them, but that the municipality’s citizens were willing to pay a premium to see the waste turned into a useful commodity.

WeCare hasn’t responded to the lawsuit in court yet. WeCare also faces legal problems at the other end of the process – in Massachusetts, where the city of Marlborough filed its own federal lawsuit in November claiming the composting plant where York’s organics were supposed to be taken is violating environmental laws and unleashing a foul odor on neighbors.

Does anyone really know where their organics go?

Piles of Garbage are Growing Around the World

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Projections indicate that our rate of trash production will keep rising past 2100.

A recent World Bank report projected that the amount of solid waste generated globally will nearly double by the year 2025, going from 3.5 million tons to 6 million tons per day. But the truly concerning part is that these figures will only keep growing for the foreseeable future. We likely won’t hit peak garbage—the moment when our global trash production hits its highest rate, then levels off—until sometime after the year 2100, the projection indicates, when we produce 11 million tons of trash per day.

Why does this matter? Because much of this waste isn’t handled properly: Millions of plastic fragments are flooding the world’s oceans and disrupting marine ecosystems and food waste driving hundreds of miles to landfills where it renders itself useless, is a useless waste of time and money.

Creating policies that give incentive to people to produce less waste  could be a way of tackling the problem. In many Japanese municipalities, trash must be disposed in clear bags (to publicly show who isn’t bothering to recycle) and recyclables are routinely sorted into dozens of categories, policies driven by the limited amount of space for landfills in the small country.

Very small and simple changes in the way you live can have dramatic effects on how much waste you generate. You, as a consumer, have considerable power to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill by choosing to buy products that use less packaging or are packaged in recyclable materials.

It is also worth remembering that although recycling is better than disposing of it in the normal trash, a lot of energy is consumed for both the recycling process and the transportation of the waste to and from its final destination. Any steps you make that reduce or eliminate the use of an item you would normally recycle or throw away will have a significant positive impact on the environment. Finding on-site solutions for food waste disposal and choosing products that are reusable and long lasting instead of single-use disposable products will save a lot of waste and also save money and the environment over the long term.

Garbage might seem like a passé environmental issue, but landfills will not be able to contain this growing amount of waste in a sustainable manner.  Tripling our global rate of garbage production is a particularly bad idea.

Municipal solid waste management is the most important service a city provides, measuring the extent of the problem is a critical first step to resolving it.

Groundbreaking Legislation Passed in NYC

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On Thursday, December 19th New York City passed important legislation requiring large food waste generators to separate food waste ensuring waste does not go to landfill, effective July 2015.

Proposed Int. No. 1162-A would require restaurants, grocery stores, caterers and other food service establishments of a certain size or number within the City that generate significant food waste to source-separate organic waste beginning July 1, 2015 for composting, aerobic or anaerobic digestion or any other method approved by the DSNY commissioner.

“This legislation is a giant step forward in the city’s efforts to recycle organic waste,” says Mayor Bloomberg.  Bloomberg called the vote “a significant step towards our PlaNYC goal of diverting more waste from landfills.”

The city is looking to double its recycling rate to 30 percent by 2017. Two organics-related trade groups endorsed New York City’s move.

“With the passage of this initiative, (New York City) is taking a bold and decisive step toward establishing a sustainable environment for its citizens. This move will benefit generations to come,” said Lori Scozzafava, executive director of the Bethesda, Md.-based U.S. Composting Council.

An approved method for disposal includes use of the Eco-Safe Digester, an on-site aerobic digestion solution.  For the 20 or more NYC businesses already using the digester, they are clearly voluntarily ahead of the ban but for those that are thinking about their best course of action, the Eco-Safe Digester waits for your call.

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.

Greener Campuses

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Colleges across the United States are making a powerfully visible commitment to greener practices and in doing so they’re engaging millions of students in protecting the planet.

Driven by student demand and university commitments to sustainability, college sports and campus dining facilities are joining the professional sports leagues to send stronger environmental signals to society and the marketplace.

It’s a trend that has been evolving for years. Greening efforts at colleges nationwide are helping to expand students’ expectations about sustainability, advance campus-wide environmental goals, and enhance how business is done. This is also helping to popularize environmentalism and greener choices by spurring mainstream conversations about the future of our energy, food waste, and water usage amongst the young and impressionable.

Until now, there has not been a data-driven diversion technology meeting the dual goals of cost-effectiveness and environmental health and safety in the area of food waste.

At the University of San Diego, the installation of the Eco-Safe Digester has helped the university divert about 60% of their waste from the landfills, placing them in the top 10% for recycling against other universities in the country.  NJIT, located in Newark New Jersey has had the Eco-Safe Digester since January of 2011 and is diverting as much as 10,000 pounds of food waste each month from landfills.  Barnard College, located in NYC, is fully committed to environmental sustainability and is doing all they can to conserve energy, decrease consumption, and reduce their carbon footprint. Their Eat Green campaign continues to educate diners about the steps they are taking to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases and the elimination of food waste from our landfills. Back in 2007, the Dining Services installed the Eco-Safe Digester in the food service kitchen to process approximately 200 pounds of organic food waste every five hours.

Each year, more and more collegiate stadiums and student dining halls across the United States are joining professional leagues, teams, and venues to avoid millions of pounds of carbon emissions, save millions of gallons of water, and divert millions of pounds of food waste. Their efforts are making meaningful change and are educating millions of students and fans about protecting our planet for seasons to come. Colleges are just beginning to tap into the enormous potential to empower their students, benefit their bottom line, and engage their vast communities by prioritizing sustainability.

On campuses across the country, greening programs are gaining popularity. Today, sustainability isn’t merely an operating principle — it’s part of daily student life.

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.