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Small companies face challenges with Organics Recycling

In 2014 the State of Massachusetts implemented an “Organic Waste Ban”, mandating that any organization that generates more than 2,000 lbs. per week of food waste must compost or repurpose.

Repurposing can include utilizing as animal feed, or even energy generation through biogas recovery.

This may sound like a simple way to divert material from landfills, as over 31% of the nation’s food supply goes to waste – with the majority of this being disposed of along with solid waste. This equates to over 133 million lbs. of organic waste each year in the US. (According to the US Department of Agriculture)

Larger generators – such as supermarkets, universities, and food distribution facilities have the ability to properly train, monitor, and sort material which is suitable for composting and repurposing. Smaller generators tend to encounter challenges when they try to divert their organics from landfills.

The biggest challenge small producers face is contamination.  Despite the best of intentions, they may be creating more of the problem that they are trying to solve.

You may be familiar with small restaurants that leave the “sorting” to the customer. These locations, in an attempt to recycle and divert as much material as possible from the waste stream – offer multiple disposal options for the customer. Many of you have seen these disposal options – with multiple choices for your “trash”, “recycling, “organics”, etc. This leaves the sorting to the uneducated customer, which typically scratch their heads attempting to properly sort the lunch or dinner waste. This is all being done with the best intentions – however it typically creates a mix of trash, recycling, and organics that cannot be recycled or composted.

An additional issue is the “biodegradable” utensils, plates, and cups, typically made from corn starch. These materials are developed and marketed as a product that can be composted – so it is frequently collected along with organics. This is more of a marketing ploy than a benefit to the environment – as this material can take an excessive amount of heat and sometimes a year of two of composting to “breakdown” and become an actual compostable product.

The thought, effort, and intentions behind any of these programs is great. Recycle as much as possible, divert as much material as possible from disposal, and generate a beneficial byproduct that can be “reused” or “repurposed”.

However if these types of programs cannot generate a suitable end product – it cannot to recycled, composted, or repurposed – and takes a long and costly route to the landfill.  This benefits no one, as the long trip to the landfill consumes more energy and creates a larger carbon footprint – exactly what the companies attempting to be “green” are trying to avoid.

If you need help with your large or small organics disposal, contact us.