February 8, 2018 | General

BioCycle World

BioCycle February 2018

Economic, Climate Impacts Of Wasted Produce

Researchers at Karlstad University in Karlstad, Sweden collected primary data on fresh fruit and vegetable (FFV) waste through direct measurements in three large retail stores in Sweden (55,000 sq.ft. to 75,000 sq.ft. in floor area) to conduct an analysis from the perspectives of wasted mass, economic cost and climate impact. A method of measuring and calculating the economic cost of FFV waste was developed and includes the costs of wasted produce, personnel time for waste management, and waste collection and disposal.
The results show that seven FFV categories, which have been termed “hotspot categories,” contributed to the majority of the waste, both in terms of wasted mass, economic cost and climate impact. The “hotspot categories” are apple, banana, grape, lettuce, pear, sweet pepper, and tomato. Total wasted mass in the three stores during 2013 was 75 tons with the hotspot categories comprising 79 percent of the total. The economic cost in the three stores in 2013 was about $200,000; the hotspot categories make up 81 percent of the economic cost. Climate impact was measured in terms of global warming potential (CO2 equivalents per kilogram of FFV). Researchers found that the wasted food was 32,600 kilograms of CO2 equivalent, with the hotspot categories comprising 85 percent of the total.
The cost benefit analysis conducted showed that it is economically wise to invest in more working time for employees in waste management to accomplish a reduction of wasted mass and climate impact without an economic loss for the store. These results are relevant for supporting the implementation of policies and initiatives aimed at food waste reduction at the retail level. The full study will appear in the March 2018 issue of Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

UK Bans Plastic Microbeads

Plastic microbeads can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care products in the United Kingdom, after a long-promised ban went into effect in January. The ban initially bars the manufacture of such products; a ban on sales takes effect in July. Thousands of tons of plastic microbeads from products such as exfoliating face scrubs and toothpastes wash into the sea every year, where they harm wildlife and can ultimately be eaten by people. The UK government first pledged to ban plastic microbeads in September 2016, following a U.S. ban in 2015. “Microbeads are entirely unnecessary when there are so many natural alternatives available, and I am delighted that from today cosmetics manufacturers will no longer be able to add this harmful plastic to their rinse-off products,” said UK Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey. “Now [that] we have reached this important milestone, we will explore how we can build on our world-leading ban and tackle other forms of plastic waste.”

National Academies Initiative On Climate Communication

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) are launching the Climate Communications Initiative (CCI) to more effectively enable their extensive body of work on climate science, impacts, and response options to inform the public and decision makers. The NASEM are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.
“The National Academies have a vast library of authoritative information to help everyone from savvy citizens to responsible decision makers understand, prepare, and respond to climate change,” notes Marcia McNutt, president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. “This initiative facilitates access to that storehouse to help protect the many sectors of human investment from unnecessary surprises.” All branches of the Academies are addressing climate change. In addition to examining new frontiers in climate science, the Academies have studied climate impacts on national security, agriculture and food security, extreme weather events, coastal communities due to sea level rise, transportation infrastructure, community resilience, ecosystems, and human health; new innovations in energy, vehicles, and carbon removal; and social and behavioral sciences dimensions of environmental change.
The CCI aims to coordinate efforts across the Academies to successfully address public questions about climate change, develop innovative approaches for communicating and disseminating climate information to military, corporate, and civic leaders so that they can responsibly lead their organizations and communities, and provide easy access to evidence-based findings and explanations of climate change to various audiences. A multidisciplinary advisory committee has been appointed to develop a strategic plan for the initiative and also provide guidance in implementing the plan. The committee will be chaired by David Titley, professor of practice in meteorology and founding director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at the Pennsylvania State University and former Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy. The group is anticipated to hold a public meeting in March of this year.

Commercial Organics Mandate Proposed In New York State

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reintroduced legislation for a commercial organics diversion mandate in his proposed executive budget for FY19, reports Waste Dive. Any commercial establishment that generates an average of two tons or more per week of excess food and food scraps would be required to arrange for recovery and recycling by Jan. 2021. “As written, this would cover supermarkets, restaurants, higher education institutions, hotels, food processors, correctional facilities, sports and entertainment venues, hospitals and other healthcare facilities,” according to the article. “Generators in New York City would be excluded because of preexisting local policy. Food donation would be required with no exceptions, but generators may receive short-term exemptions for food scrap recycling if no processing options are available within a 40-mile radius or if they can prove costs would be higher than disposal.
“If the legislation is passed, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) would be required to assess regional capacity and notify generators of expected compliance by June 2020. All covered generators would be required to submit annual reports to DEC detailing their progress beginning March 2022.” Waste Dive notes the legislation is nearly identical to the Food Recovery and Recycling Act in Cuomo’s FY18 budget.

Transparency Key To Retailer Food Waste

Reports from the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) indicate that an agreement between United Kingdom (UK) supermarkets on a standardized methodology to report food waste rates could soon be reached, according to an article in Waste Management World. Currently, the majority of grocery retail chains in the UK elect to report aggregate food waste figures through industry bodies, and have been resistant to calls to publicize annual individual waste rates. However, several industry leaders have adopted the publication of individual food waste figures. Tesco became the first supermarket chain in the world to release a third-party verified report on its supply chain food waste in 2014, with Sainsbury’s following suit and publishing details of its in-store waste in 2016, noted the article, adding that less than one percent of food that passes through the Tesco supply chain now goes to waste, while Sainsbury’s, as part of a partnership with ReFood UK, diverts food waste to anaerobic digestion facilities.

Saying No To The “Energy Bag”

Recycling industry leaders and environmental organizations have expressed their concern and dismay over Dow Chemical and Keep America Beautiful’s announcement that the Hefty Energy Bag program is being introduced in two additional U.S. cities. The program, currently in place in Omaha, Nebraska, encourages residents to collect their “previously nonrecycled” plastics — single use items like chip bags, disposable cutlery, and juice pouches — in a special orange Hefty bag for curbside pick-up. These plastics are then sent to a cement kiln outside of Kansas City, Missouri where they are burned.
The decision by Cobb County, Georgia, and Boise, Idaho to introduce the Hefty program comes at a time when local collection systems across the U.S. are scrambling to adhere to China’s new strict contamination standards on recyclables, effective January 1, 2018. Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) are concerned that bringing these nonrecyclable plastics into their facilities could have a negative impact on their sorting abilities, increasing the potential for further contamination when MRFs are struggling to significantly decrease their contamination rates within a short time-frame.

2017 Iowa Statewide Waste Characterization Study

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) recently released its waste characterization study that identifies what is being thrown away in the state, and what could be diverted from landfilling. Wasted food accounted for 20 percent (556,313 tons) of the landfilled materials in the 2017 Iowa Statewide Waste Characterization Study, a 50 percent increase from the last study in 2011. The study is conducted about every six years, and analyzes the types of trash, recyclables and compostables Iowans send to the landfill.
For the 2017 study, materials received at 15 Iowa landfills and solid waste transfer stations were sorted into 61 separate categories within nine separate material types. Distinctions were made between residential trash and industrial and commercial waste. Plastic film, wrap and bags are the second most landfilled items, comprising 8.6 percent of the total waste landfilled — an increase of 15 percent over findings from 2011. However, the amount of corrugated cardboard reaching the landfill (4.6% of total) dropped by about 50 percent since the last study. Compostable paper comprised another 7.6 percent of the waste stream.
The waste characterization study also assessed the economic impact of increased diversion of recyclable paper (6.1%), plastic (5.8%), metal (3.9%) and glass (2.1%), which are commonly collected through curbside and drop-off recycling programs. Based on regional market prices at the time of the study (October 2017), the value of the common recyclable paper and containers Iowans are landfilling is more than $60 million. “Should these materials be diverted, processed and sold to the manufacturing sector for the production of new products, it’s estimated nearly 6,000 jobs could be created,” noted IDNR.

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