Everyone on the planet should be planning and providing solutions to pay the sustainability projects forward. For a business, reducing your solid waste to landfills has a great impact on the reduction of materials being “entombed for eternity.” Most businesses recycle the easy items, paper and plastic, but did you know that you can recycle the food waste coming from your facility? Food waste can be diverted to many different facilities for reuse potential. Some of the types of diversion facilities are composting facilities, anaerobic digestion (AD / biogas generating electricity,) animal feeding (where permitted by law) and soil amendments.
The EPA has clearly defined the hierarchy for diversion with highest potential being source reduction followed by feeding hungry people, feeding animals, industrial uses (AD), composting and last landfill / incineration. Source reduction can be accomplished through ordering the correct amount of materials and reducing waste in your production processes. Feeding hungry people is the donation of saleable or close dated food to your local food banks for consumption. Having worked with the largest food bank organization in the US, I have personally seen the needs and how fast the food turns in these food banks. The food that comes into the bank in the morning is generally distributed by early afternoon. Industrial uses could be the use of yellow grease for the cosmetics industry or the bacterial digestion of the food waste in an Anaerobic Digester that creates biogas. The biogas is then refined and the methane is used to fuel electrical generation units to either feed the facility or back feed the electrical distribution lines. Composting of the food waste is another method to develop a closed loop solution for mass retailers. The retailers can transport the food waste to the composter, then after approximately 90 days, the composter can bag the material and sell into the retail outlets. The retailer then can advertise they are “closing the loop” re-using their perishable products. The final step is either a potential for a WTE feedstock that can create electrical energy and lowest beneficial use is sending the food waste to the landfill, basically sequestering the carbon forever.
All but the last method of sending to the landfill can provide GHG reductions using the preferred method for calculation using the EPA’s WARM model. Using the WARM model, if you can recycle 1 ton of food waste, this creates a reduction in GHG of 1 metric ton of CO2 equivalent, and awesome figure! That equates to 2.3 barrels of oil per 1 ton of recycled food waste. Imagine the barrels of oil you could save if your facility generated 5 to 10 tons of food waste per week!