The city has assisted participant hotels in increasing their overall diversion rates — in some cases, by 400 percent or more.
BioCycle January 2014, Vol. 55, No. 1, p. 28
In the City of San Diego (City), several hotels are participating in the City’s commercial food waste composting program, some with over 1,000 rooms, and all of them with convention centers on site. Food waste is collected from generators by the City’s franchise haulers, and composted in an open windrow system at the City’s composting facility, the Miramar Greenery. The program accepts food scraps, coffee grounds and coffee filters, parchment paper, and paper towels and napkins from the kitchens. It does not accept any compostable kitchen/tableware, or cardboard, and has a one percent threshold for contamination. As a requirement for participation, businesses must be in full compliance with San Diego’s Recycling Ordinance, and their employees must be trained by City staff about the recycling and food scraps composting programs. The City also works with hotel staff and their haulers, conducting waste audits to identify and quantify recyclables and food waste that could still be diverted from the waste stream.
Hotels are encouraged to work on source reduction and donate excess edible food. Most of the participating hotels use their excess edible food in the employees’ cafeterias, but as with many other businesses, they are still resistant and afraid of food donation programs. City staff provides educational material on the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, the Internal Revenue Service Code’s Allowable Deductions for Charitable Donations to Ordinary Income Properties, and a list of local charities and food banks that will work with them to implement a safe and smooth excess edible food donation program.
As part of the program requirements, hotel staff and a representative of their hauler have to inspect the hotel’s first three food scraps loads with City staff at the Miramar Greenery, to ensure that any contamination issues are identified, and properly addressed back at the hotel. With this comprehensive approach to waste diversion, i.e., not just a food waste composting focus but also waste prevention and donation, San Diego has assisted participant hotels in increasing their overall diversion rates — in some cases, by 400 percent or more, and even achieving over 80 percent waste diversion. Table 1 illustrates diversion achieved by several hotel participants.
The Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel was the first hotel to participate in the food scraps composting program in May 2010. The hotel was eager to get started, and had the fastest program implementation of all hotels: only one month, and that included training over 100 staff members! Most hotel programs take an average of three to four months to be fully implemented (including the implementation of the City Recycling Ordinance’s requirements).
Table 2 summarizes food waste generation and collection at participating hotels. Collection service varies from single generators using compactors to collection route participants using either dumpsters or carts. Due to space limitations, some hotels receive route collection three times/week. For example, the Crowne Plaza Hanalei San Diego Hotel had significant space difficulties, and needed to participate in a route system. The Hotel waited close to three years until a food waste composting route collection system was implemented to participate in the program. During this period, it worked on improving its source reduction, reuse, donation and recycling programs. The current participant hotels represent 13 percent of all of the City’s commercial food waste program’s participants, and generate approximately 30 percent of the total program’s tonnage. Other generators in the program include large venues such as a military training facility, university campuses, hospitals, SeaWorld San Diego, Petco Park baseball stadium, and the City’s Convention Center and International Airport.
Current participant hotels generate an average of 0.85 lbs/meal of food waste. It is interesting to note that hotels participating in an excess edible food donation program, in addition to using it in the employees’ cafeteria, have an average of only 0.49 lbs of food waste per meal. Hotels that donate excess edible food also typically realize a great cost savings on their disposal bills. The amount saved depends on such variables the specific collection programs and fees charged by the individual haulers. Table 3 shows a comparison based on the average food waste/lbs.
All program participants are presented with a yearly seal of participation to be displayed at their facilities. In addition to the training the City provides, several hotels have created their own waste diversion outreach tools for employees, such as videos, recycling fashion show, and games. The Hilton San Diego BayFront, Crowne Plaza, Sheraton Hotel and Marina, Marriott Marquis, The Grand Del Mar, and The Lodge at Torrey Pines have already been recognized under the City’s Annual Waste Reduction and Recycling Awards Program. Future awards will recognize new program participants with exemplar waste diversion rates.
Ana Carvalho is an Environmental Specialist with the City of San Diego’s (CA) Environmental Services Department.