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Start a Commercial Composting Program

August 21, 2013 | 0 comments

Americans throw away more than 25% of the food they prepare, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And it costs the country around $1 billion each year to dispose of it.

By establishing a food scrap collection program in your commercial or institutional building, you can
reduce landfill and garbage collection fees, lessen greenhouse gas emissions by keeping food out of the landfill, and create a nutrient-rich soil amendment that can be used in community gardens, building landscaping, parks, and city beautification programs.

Items that may be composted include:

  • Food scraps like fruits, vegetables, egg shells, and pasta
  • Baked goods
  • Tea bags, coffee grounds, and filters
  • Meat and bones
  • Flowers and houseplants
  • Soiled tissues, paper towels, napkins, and paper plates

Before you devote resources to composting, take note of how much food waste is being thrown away within your building. For smaller buildings, or in buildings where not a lot of food is consumed onsite, there may not be enough scraps generated to justify a program.

Contact your recycling or garbage service to learn about the composting services they can offer. Consider bringing a few interested tenants/occupants into the conversation, too. If they’re involved early on, they can serve as program proponents and explain the program to other tenants and occupants.

Garbage and recycling companies can also help you decide what your facility needs in terms of composting container sizes, how often the containers should be emptied, the best container locations, etc.

You’ll also want to decide how your internal compost collection containers will work. Although recycling/garage companies may provide containers for your building’s central composting location, it will probably be up to you to determine how many internal compost collection containers you’ll need (and where they should be placed). It’s important to also establish a process for making sure the collection containers are emptied regularly into central composting containers.

Commercial and institutional buildings of all types are experiencing savings from composting programs:

  • Last year, Middlebury College composted 828 tons of material, increasing its waste diversion rate to 66.6%, and saving $103,524 in landfill fees.
  • Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) military base converted 4,000 tons of organic waste to a high-quality soil amendment product and used it in multiple projects on-base and off-base. JBLM diverted 670 tons from the landfill in 2012, saving $300,000 in disposal costs.
  • The San Diego International Airport generates between 1 and 1.5 tons of food scraps per week. Its composting program represents approximately 10% of the airport’s waste diversion, and saves more than $4,000 each year on waste hauling and disposal services.

Read about another organization that has successfully implemented composting programs here.

Has your organization established a composting program? Why or why not? Do you see any benefit from doing so?

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