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Eliminating the Food-to-Landfill Pipeline, One Business at a Time

Sherrell Dorsey headshotWords by Sherrell Dorsey
Leadership & Transparency
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Global food waste is one of the largest and most harmful contributors of greenhouse gases to the environment. Nearly 1.3 billion tons of food gets lost or wasted every year. This fact equates not only to environmental degradation as a result of the harmful methane gasses released as food rots away in capacity-strapped landfills, but also spells substantial economic losses for food producers and sellers.

What’s the solution?


While solving food waste at the root of production is a concern many agriculturalists, engineers and scientists are looking to solve, behavioral change at the consumer and commercial levels can be the key to significantly decreasing the amount of compostable food waste sent to the landfill by both households and businesses globally.

BigGreen.co.uk is a leading expert in recycling and waste disposal for businesses of all kinds. Its independent company, based in Britain, is heavily calling for legislation in the U.K.'s upcoming May elections to urge officials to make commercial recycling a requirement. Citing the state of California’s recently passed Assembly Bill 1826, which requires all commercial generators of food waste to have it composted or transformed to energy via anaerobic digestion, BigGreen believes that similar legislation could be a match for solving the landfill crisis in its part of the world.

"Most of the time, the general waste bin seems the most convenient place to dump unused food," said BigGreen.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall. "And now's the time to change our mindset when it comes to this – both in the home and in the workplace."

According to BigGreen.co.uk, the biggest culprits when it comes to food waste are:


  • Food processing industry

  • Waste from supermarkets and shops

  • Restaurants

  • Hospitals

  • Schools

  • Prisons and other institutions

  • Workplace cafeterias and canteens

Barriers


When addressing commercial businesses, institutions or organizations responsible for large amounts of food waste, tossing around highly savvy words like “anaerobic food digester” and “compost” could be intimidating. Intimidating words can also be attached to hefty price tags for disposing appropriately, thus creating a barrier for businesses to participate in landfill diversion.

By simplifying language through proper education and putting processes in place to assist business owners or operations managers, achieving a greater share of commercial composting can be a more realistic pursuit.

For example, the city of Seattle implemented a commercial recycling program in January of 2015 to help businesses save money (32 percent compared to garbage fees) through composting their food scraps. Businesses simply reach out to their garbage service provider to receive their compost containers for weekly pickup.

Compelling economic opportunities


In the fall of 2014, the state of Massachusetts enacted a commercial food-waste ban, requiring 1,700 of the states largest food-waste generators to divert organic compounds from landfills. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection found that the price of sending food waste to the landfill totaled $60 to $80 per ton.

An earlier story in the Guardian reported:

“It’s expensive to get rid of; there’s a whole suite of environmental problems associated with it, and we’re leaving economic opportunity on the table,” said David Cash, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, which will regulate the new law. “That banana peel can be turned into compost. It can be turned into energy. Not-quite-expired food can be directed to food pantries or used to feed agricultural animals.”

Collective problem-solving


Arguably, there is no silver bullet that can spell universal regulation for every country, city or town. Demanding action through law enforcement alone may not be enough to get businesses on board to help tackle this issue. Campaigns led by local government regulation, NGO initiatives and private-sector resourcing will need to be met with hard data, educational resources, and tools and metrics to significantly thwart the food-to-landfill pipeline.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sherrell Dorsey headshotSherrell Dorsey

Sherrell Dorsey is a social impact storyteller, social entrepreneur and advocate for environmental, social and economic equity in underserved communities. Sherrell speaks and writes frequently on the topics of sustainability, technology, and digital inclusion.

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