BioCycle June 2017
Business Case For Food Waste Reduction
Recently, the World Resources Institute (WRI) prepared a report on behalf of Champions 12.3 titled, “The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste.” WRI evaluated 1,200 business sites across 700 companies in 17 countries that invested in strategies to reduce food loss and waste, and found that nearly every site evaluated achieved a positive return, with half of sites seeing a 14-fold or greater return on investment. The data come from companies representing a range of sectors, including food manufacturing, food retail (e.g., grocery stores), hospitality (e.g., hotels, leisure), and food service (e.g., canteens, restaurants). The report details the kinds of investments companies made, and the ways in which they benefited financially.
The United Kingdom, the only nation where WRI found full cost-benefit financial data, saw a 250-fold return on its investment in reducing household food waste between 2007 and 2012. During this five-year period, avoidable food waste was reduced a full 21 percent. Cities can also achieve high figures — six London boroughs showed a 92-fold return on efforts to curb household food waste, saving households and local authorities significant money. Leaders also cite a number of nonfinancial, strategic reasons to reduce food loss and waste, including better relationships with customers and suppliers, increasing food security, adhering to waste regulations, upholding a sense of ethical responsibility and promoting environmental sustainability.
Food Waste Kiosk Update
A group of students at the University of Toledo (UT) in Toledo, Ohio has taken the Redbox video kiosk idea and developed a community-based organics collection system called “Greenbox,” in which organic material will be collected and sent to an anaerobic digestion facility. The U.S. EPA awarded the team of UT undergraduate students a $15,000 grant to participate in a national competition to design solutions for a sustainable future. A functional prototype was successfully developed by the team (but it didn’t win the competition) and a business model was created as part of a senior design course. Each Greenbox unit has the potential to reduce over 300 tons of food waste per year, remove 2,900 lbs of greenhouse gases, and create 16,600 cubic feet of methane gas while providing a payback period of 4.2 years.
Three different designs were evaluated: a rotary shredder, compactor, and a bin holder; all had the same basic function of storing food waste that could be easily dropped off by the user. It developed a budget of approximately $3,800 to create one Greenbox prototype using the bin holder design. Most of the cost was related to materials and labor to create the metal shell of the unit. Other components include the bin, a touch screen, printer and programming unit, and a sensor to alert the pick up service to come and remove the food waste. The touch screen user-interface enables participants to log their contributions to the program. Once entered, a printed label is outputted to adhere to the recyclable plastic bag of food waste before it is deposited.
When the bin is shut, the bag of food waste drops into the unit. When two-thirds of the storage capacity is reached (total capacity is around 1,500 lbs), the sensor notifies the collection service, which removes the bin, and replaces it with an empty, clean bin through a rail system on the bottom of the Greenbox. The food waste is taken to a service site to be weighed, scanned, and prepared for a collection company to bring it to an anaerobic digester. To recruit and engage Greenbox customers, an incentive structure offers rewards to users for depositing food waste, similar to the Recycle Bank® reward system. Rewards include gift cards and/or discount coupons to local restaurants and shops. The students’ advisor for the project, Dr. Matthew Franchetti at UT, indicated that the project is moving towards commercialization through some local investors and government agency interest in Greenbox as well as through a program by the National Science Foundation known as Innovation Corps (I-Corps™), which helps researchers translate discoveries into technologies with near-term benefits for the economy and society.
$22 Million Net Benefit Opportunity In New York State
The NYSERDA report, titled “Benefit-Cost Analysis of Potential Food Waste Diversion Legislation,” was prepared in part to provide data for a food waste disposal ban in New York State that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo had proposed in his FY2018 budget. The NYS Food Recovery and Recycling Act would have required large generators of food scraps (at least 2 tons/week) to divert waste from landfills starting in 2021. The proposed ban was not included in New York’s final FY18 budget agreement. However, the final FY2018 NY State budget includes $3 million for municipalities for food donation and recycling projects. In addition, A Farm to Food Bank tax credit was also included in the budget, allowing farmers to claim 25 percent of the market value of donated food to help cover related costs. Each farmer can claim up to $5,000/year.
The Empire State Development Corporation is also providing $1 million in grants to expand cold storage capacity at food banks as well as $2 million in grants over three years to large generators to implement recommendations from waste audits, such as to purchase storage bins and coolers for food donation, and to improve, and expand on-site composting. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has also awarded more than $3.7 million to help municipalities update recycling infrastructure through Climate Smart Communities program awards.
Opportunities For Food Waste Reduction In 2018 Farm Bill
The Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic’s (HFLPC) new report, “Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2018 Farm Bill” outlines solutions to incorporate in Farm Bill legislation, which is currently being debated in the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee. Top HFLPC recommendations for consideration in the draft bill include: Standardize and clarify date labels; Provide funding to K-12 schools to incorporate food waste prevention and food recovery education in their programs; Launch a national food waste education and awareness campaign; Strengthen the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act; Provide grant support for infrastructure investments to food recovery organizations, innovative food recovery models, and development of composting and anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities; Provide federal grants to support state and municipal organic waste bans, zero waste goals, and food waste prevention plans; and Create an Office of Food Waste Reduction or a Food Waste Coordinator Position within the U.S. Department of agriculture.
Organics Recycling At LAX
As part of ongoing initiatives by the City of Los Angeles to achieve the goal of zero waste and reducing the use of landfills, LA Sanitation and Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the airport oversight and operations department for the city of Los Angeles, have announced the start of an organics waste recycling pilot program at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The pilot involves collection of food waste from a sit-down restaurant, fast food restaurant, and coffee house in Terminal 8 and an airline lounge in Terminal 7. The program’s effectiveness will be analyzed to determine the needs for all of the 108 food service establishments within LAX’s nine terminals.
Airport staff will collect the food waste from the pilot program locations. LA Sanitation will then collect the food waste and transport it to a facility, where it will be anaerobically digested and converted into renewable natural gas and used as vehicle fuel. Residual solids and liquids from the process will be made into beneficially reusable products such as soil amendments. “This partnership with LAWA underscores LA Sanitation’s commitment to environmental sustainability,” says LA Sanitation Director and General Manager Enrique C. Zaldivar. “We continually work to increase the recycling of solid waste and its reuse in a beneficial way; organics processing is the new frontier in solid waste management.” To learn more about zero waste initiatives at U.S. airports, see “Organics Recycling Lands At Major Airports.”