BioCycle July 2005, Vol. 46, No. 7, p. 4
WANTED: LANDFILL BAN ON FOOD RESIDUALS
WHAT was accomplished when almost half the states in the U.S. banned leaves, grass clippings and limbs from being landfilled can work similar “miracles” for banana peels, egg shells, soiled paper and other “kitchen/commercial organics.” Think of it! The stream starts … and stops here for composting … for residential and commercial food residuals. As reported in the January 2004 BioCycle nationwide survey – The State of Garbage in America – what started with yard trimmings landfill disposal bans has now spread to cover other solid wastes such as whole tires, used oil, lead-acid batteries, white goods and electronics.
When the initial yard trimmings landfill bans were announced about two decades ago, they had a major impact on launching and expanding composting facilities, equipment for collection and processing materials, and product marketing. A ban on landfilling food residuals would have the same impact. And steps are being taken by local and state governments.
One-and-a-half years ago, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved Ordinance #11464 which bans disposal of recycled paper, cardboard and yard trimmings in garbage set out by businesses as well as recyclable paper, cardboard, cans and bottles set out by residents. At the same time, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels called for restaurants and commercial generators to recycle food residuals. Added Tim Croll of Seattle Public Utilities: “We need food waste to make our goal, no question. Seattle officials are negotiating rates, collection schedules, billing and customer service for the food residuals program.” Noted Alan Durning, executive director of Northwest Environment Watch: “This will stiffen people’s spines. I hope the city will hurry and move on to food waste recycling because it’s the next frontier.”
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection estimates that 11.4 percent of its waste stream is food residuals – with less than five percent now diverted to composting operations and backyard bins. As of a year ago, there were 30 food and organic material composting operations permitted. The Massachusetts DEP has set a goal of reducing MSW (70 percent by 2010), and that means diverting an additional 300,000 tons of food residuals. Once an adequate diversion infrastructure is in place – source separation programs, composting sites permitted to take commercial organics, financial assistance, collection through a “density-mapping” database, etc. – DEP is considering adding commercially generated food residuals to the list of materials banned from landfill disposal.
In the small town of Wayzata, Minnesota – near Minneapolis – city officials offer food residuals recycling to residents. More than 70 percent of the 1,200 households participate with every other week collection of a 30-gallon trash container. Disposal costs actually went down – from $12.50 to $9.75/month. One company, Randy’s Sanitation, hauls all the trash and recycling which makes the job easier, taking the food residuals to NRG Processing Services for composting. “The NRG facility is permitted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to compost 150 tons/day organics and 300 tons/day mixed MSW,” writes Roberta Wirth of MPCA who has worked with the agency since 1986 on compost rule writing.
Articles in this issue provide good examples of what’s happening on the food residuals composting front with 10 lessons on food diversion planning (p. 26), reports on projects at Boston’s Hyatt Regency (p. 31) and Berea College in Kentucky (p. 35), and a University of Arizona analysis on why the nationwide food loss rate surpasses $90 billion a year (p. 25). We’re also in the final stages of editing On The Road to Food Residuals Composting, which will cover key issues of sorting, collecting and composting. Landfill bans also will be included! – J. G.