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Where Does Restaurant Waste Go?

August 29, 2012

So you go out to dinner and there’s too much to finish, but not enough to take home. There’s the scraps on the salad bar, uneaten food from many sources that adds up at restaurants where dozens – or hundreds – of people eat daily.

The Environmental Protection Agency says there’s 34 million tons of food waste tossed every year, much of which goes to landfills. A goal for us is making use of not only food waste but other compostable waste. In an article online, it says “Food waste appears to be the new frontier in recycling. Composting food scraps at home is relatively easy, but it is not as common a practice as is recycling nonperishable items such as paper and aluminum cans.”

An article last year in USA Today noted “The company’s 10 restaurants in Washington use EnviRelation, a 12-person company that hauls food waste from nearly 200 offices, hotels and restaurants. Last year, the city’s Kimpton properties alone composted more than 408,000 pounds of food scrap.” That’s 17 tons of food scraps per month. Every month! In some areas it’s used for livestock – mixed in with rations – but that’s frowned upon by some consumers, even though it keeps 17 tons in one area out of landfills every month.

We’re looking on a smaller basis, at least until we get land to expand to. The initial goal is working with local restaurants to use and recycle food wastes. For example, one barrel may have eggshells and fruit and vegetable remains, while another bin has cardboard, coffee grounds, tea leaves, nut shells and shredded newspaper. We’ll take shredded yard waste, leaves and more, using it to be a benefit rather than a waste.

In addition to kitchen waste, the EPA notes “About fourteen million tons of wood waste (e.g., urban wood waste, woody debris from suburban land clearing, and rural forestry residuals) were generated in 2003 according to EPA.”

“In 2010, 250 million tons of municipal solid waste or MSW (more commonly known as trash or garbage) were generated in the United States. Organic materials—comprised of yard trimmings, food scraps, wood waste, and paper and paperboard products—are the largest component of our trash and make up more than two-thirds of the solid waste stream.”

The uses are beyond just composting. Kitchen waste has been used for cattle and hogs (both require heat treating unless just vegetable origin) but chickens are highly efficient and eager consumers of vegetable and fruit trimmings. The wood waste provides something for them to scratch in, as well as bedding under the rabbit cages, where worms often collect.

As with many projects, it’ll take some organization to get it rolling. Green, properly managed restaurant and household kitchen and yard waste is possible. We’re starting that small too, with pickup that is far cheaper than disposal. There are many colors of green. Show us yours, Walker and Winston county Alabama.

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