Organics Blog Series continues with a look at commercial organics recycling.
Commercial organics waste includes food
manufacturing processing residues; organic grocery discards (unsalable fruits,
vegetables, and bakery goods, produce trim,
soiled paper, and wax coated
cardboard); and restaurant organics (“pre-consumer” food preparation scraps,
“post-consumer” table scraps, and soiled and non-recyclable paper). Up to 90%
of waste thrown out by supermarkets and restaurants is food or other organic
scraps suitable for donation or composting.
For commercial generators, the economic incentive of reduced collection fees is
a primary incentive for participating in food scrap composting.
In order to implement commercial
organics recycling, a local or regional compost operation, whether operated by
private, farm, or municipal entities, will need to be willing to accept food
scraps into their process, if they are not doing so already. Many compost
operators are reluctant to accept food scraps, as composting these materials
adds a new dynamic to the process and must be managed in specific ways so that
problems do not arise. Well-managed compost operations can effectively
incorporate food scraps. Starting with a small pilot program incorporating food
processor wastes, supermarket produce trimmings, or pre-consumer restaurant
scraps, allows for easier integration into the compost process, monitoring, and
troubleshooting. Additional processing of food scraps can be gradually
phased-in. Food scraps from restaurants
can have higher levels of contamination such as plastics; starting with
pre-consumer scraps only (preparation discards) can help to limit this.Acceptable materials will need to be
determined through discussions with the compost operation, including, whether in
addition to food scraps, will the operation be willing to accept paper products
and compostable plastics?
Commercial businesses are most
effectively served by curbside collection, most likely provided by private
haulers. Rural areas can also consider working directly with farmers to collect
food scraps from commercial generators. To promote commercial organics
recycling, small business generators can benefit from being allowed to use
drop-off food scrap collection options (if available). Collection of food
scraps by non-profit organizations using bikeshas also been implemented on a small scale in small towns and urban areas.
variety of commercial organic collection options are utilized, including
automated trucks with mechanized cart lifters; front loaders and dumpsters; and
pick-ups, flatbed or box trucks equipped with a Tommy Lift Gate; or manual
collection using carts, buckets, or compostable bags.
Collection containers can range from 55-gallon drums to carts on
wheels. Typically multiple collection carts are needed for onsite collection.
Food scraps tend to be heavy, so containers larger than 64-gallons are seldom
used. If carts are used, haulers typically provide cart cleaning services or
replacement services to minimize odors and the “yuck” factor; alternatively
cart liners can be inserted to keep the carts clean. In most instances
collection must occur daily or minimally three times per week in order to
prevent odor issues.
Businesses in rural and small towns can
also be successfully serviced through cooperative arrangements, typically the
use of shared containers and hauling costs. Sharing a collection dumpster is
useful for businesses in a commercial area where space is limited, as well as
for businesses that may not generate sufficient quantities to justify the costs
of a cart or dumpster service. In these instances, businesses benefit from
decreased hauling costs and haulers benefit from reduced collection stops. The
collection dumpster can be placed at a business that has sufficient space or in
a shared parking lot or other location. Businesses work with the hauler to
prorate the bill equitably amongst participating businesses.
Pilot projects focusing on
“pre-consumer” food preparation scraps can be initiated to allow for staff
training and troubleshooting of the program prior to collection of
“post-consumer” food waste. Focusing on the collection of pre-consumer
materials in a pilot allows for more concentrated employee training, without
having to also educate customers. Pre-consumer contamination (plastics) is
usually minimal and easier to eliminate through employee training.
businesses, including office complexes and resorts, have implemented onsite
composting for food scraps and brush. These systems may prove more economical
than hauling off-site, if staffing and space is available. In such settings, a
commercially available in-vessel composting system or bins or shed systems are
common solutions. Onsite staffing and training are required to ensure that
systems are properly managed and maintained. In commercial areas onsite composting using a
shared small scale in-vessel container or vermicomposting has also been used in
a few urban areas and does present a possible model for rural and small towns.
Commercially available worm composting units have also proven effective for
handling food scraps and soiled paper from institutions and office complexes.
Smaller, “homemade” worm composting bins can be constructed for use in
diverting food scraps from smaller business generators.
Next up: Commercial Organics Recycling
Opportunities and Action.
This article continues our “Steps toward Zero
Waste for Contractors and Builders” series, with a discussion of: tracking
progress toward zero waste in C&D, employee and subcontractor training, and
Our zero waste C&D series has presented a “roadmap”
for builders and contractors on moving towards zero waste for construction and
demolition projects. Zero waste is a path that can lead to savings and
Zero waste does not actually mean “zero waste,” as
some think. Instead it is a goal and en route to that goal, great change
and value can be achieved. And, contractors can realize cost reductions by
following this path. Zero waste in construction and remodeling projects
focuses on looking for opportunities:
Generating less waste by
using materials more efficiently – saves money;
Reusing materials on site, or
selling or donating them to someone else for reuse – cost containment,
potential revenues or tax benefits; and
Recycling whenever possible –
might save you money and could even bring in revenue.
Zero waste in construction and remodeling is a
win-win proposition, and not as hard to do as you might think.
Includein the Planasystemfortrackingthematerialssetasidefor
handled ashazardouswaste,and managedasregulartrash.Trackingis important for manyreasons,
youareseekingLEEDcertification,thentrackingreuseand recyclingwill be essential
lawsthat pertaintothe managementof anyof
trackingwill be essentialtodocumentregulatorycompliance.And,documentationwilllikelybea regulatoryrequirementitself.
Using thedatato calculatetheenvironmentalimpacts ofyouractions:energysaved,greenhousegas
emissions avoided,andsolidand hazardouswasteavoided.12
pointedoutto all employeesand subcontractors.
Signageisimportant.Signageaboutwhatgoes where,andwhatshouldn’tgothere,isimportanttoensure thatwhatisplannedhappens,butsignagehasanotherrole
theirpart init. Boasting
aboutwhatis being accomplishedboostsmoralandencouragesongoingparticipation.Considersignagethatreportsbacktothe
publicrelationstoolfor youasthecommunitywillalsosee whatisbeingaccomplished.
projects,promoteyourbusinessas“green”,and usepressreleasestoboastaboutyour accomplishments.Youcan usethedata you collectedthroughtrackingtoprove
Youcanalsomeasureandboastabout the environmentalbenefitsof
Thereareworkshopsandtraining coursesavailabletotheconstructiontradeforthosethatare interestedin
jobsite.Inparticular,WasteCapRecyclingSolutionsisanationalleaderin offeringaccreditedreuseandrecyclingtrainingforconstruction and