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Waste Not: New Reasons to Keep Food Out of Landfills

martinez, sarah, ecoproductsIt’s no secret that sustainability is becoming a higher priority for consumers. That, however, doesn’t mean it’s easy to get sports fans to put paper and plastics in the right bins as they are exiting the venue. But going green can pay off for stadiums, restaurants and other foodservice operators.

Case in point: A recent survey found one in five Americans would be more likely to buy concessions at a venue if they learned that all of the trash left behind was recycled or composted. On the other side: One quarter of Americans said they’d buy fewer concessions if the venue was sending all of its waste to the landfill. This finding is not surprising, given that waste is a very tangible issue to consumers. Questions around what happens to a paper cup or plastic spoon after it has been used engage consumers in a different way than whether the light bulbs overhead are energy-efficient. (Not that anyone is knocking energy efficiency!) For this reason, waste diversion and food packaging represent a unique opportunity for foodservice operators to share an environmental message and build positive brand associations. It pays to be green.

If shifting consumer preference isn’t enough, the regulatory landscape is increasingly requiring waste diversion. As of this year, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont are all requiring large generators of food waste – such as universities and large hospitals — to divert it from landfills. Alternative end-of-life scenarios include donation, commercial composting, or anaerobic digestion. Compliance thresholds are based on the amount of organic waste generated by the establishment. For example, businesses in Massachusetts that generate one ton of food waste per week must comply, while the rule applies to companies generating about twice that in Vermont and Connecticut. In addition, Vermont is joining the Canadian provinces of Vancouver, Quebec, and Nova Scotia in aiming to ban all organic waste from landfills. By 2020, Vermont will no longer accept food scraps at its landfills – from businesses or residents.

This trend is not limited to states, as many municipalities are now implementing their own rules. In 2009, San Francisco required residents and businesses to sort waste into landfill, recyclables, and compostables. In 2011, Portland, Ore. banned weekly trash pick-ups and shifted to bi-weekly collection, while mandating weekly collection of organic waste such as food scraps. More recently, in late 2013, New York City passed a law requiring large food-scrap generators to divert food waste from landfills beginning in 2015. This applies to the Big Apple’s foodservice operations of varying sizes, including restaurants that are 7,000 square feet or larger. Finally, beginning in spring 2015, Minneapolis will require its foodservice establishments to offer recycling or composting options to its customers.

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5 thoughts on “Waste Not: New Reasons to Keep Food Out of Landfills

  1. The large amount of fresh food waste is a lose-lose situation for the environment, the struggling families in today’s tough economy and for the food retailers. There is no single cure, or silver bullet for food waste reduction therefore, we should address the food waste problem in every link in our food supply chain. For example, the excess inventory of fresh perishables close to their expiration on supermarket shelves, combined with the consumer “Last In First Out” shopping behavior, might be the weakest link of the fresh food supply chain.
    The new open GS1 DataBar standard enables applications that encourage efficient consumer shopping by offering him automatic and dynamic purchasing incentives for fresh perishables approaching their expiration dates before they end up in a landfill.
    The “End Grocery Waste” App, which is based on the open GS1 DataBar standard, encourages efficient consumer shopping behavior that maximizes grocery retailer revenue, makes fresh food affordable for all families and effectively reduces the global carbon footprint.

  2. I think it’s unrealistic to expect homeowners and apartment dwellers to separate compostable material and then leave it down for recyclable pickups unless there was a substantial economic incentive for them to do so. Perhaps if this waste was diverted to the growing use of biogas production facilities which ultimately produce electricity would make such a “pay-as-you-go” compost recycling program possible.

  3. The apartment complex I live in does not have recycle bins on the campus. This is very disturbing to me. Our city also needs to place more recycle recepticles throughout the city and work with neighborhoods and apartment complexes in recycling. The lack of education is another issue that needs to be addressed. There is no reason to avoid the issues at hand. Our landfill will be at max capacity within the next decade and our city/county commissioners need to get a larger recycle center in place. The benefits to doing that, to name just a few, would be adding more jobs to this area, sustainability to our city/county, educating the public on why our environment needs to be cared for in a better way.
    I embrace the reduce, reuse and recycle mentality and welcome the needed changes coming down the pike.

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