BioCycle July 2018
Moving The Needle On U.S. Recycling
As part of its broader commitment to help companies shift to the circular economy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) established Beyond 34: Recycling and Recovery for a New Economy, its place-based pilot project program aimed at increasing the current 34% recycling rate in the U.S. and accelerating recycling infrastructure development. After assessing various urban areas across the country to determine the most appropriate location for a Beyond 34 pilot, the Orlando, Florida region, including Lake, Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties, was selected in September 2017. In addition to its average area recycling rates, other factors that contributed to the Orlando region’s selection were strong public and private sector engagement, an innovative culture, and robust sustainability goals on both the state and local levels.
To help kick off the pilot, Beyond 34 hosted the Orlando Region Waste Impact Workshop: How Public and Private Sectors Collaborate for Recycling System Optimization, attended by business leaders, recycling planners, and key stakeholders in the city of Orlando and the surrounding municipalities. Participants brainstormed strategies that would positively impact the local area’s recycling rate. A consultant then conducted a recycling gap analysis to help determine which implementation projects will be most relevant to achieving recycling goals. The gap analysis determined that over $62 million of currently disposed focus materials (i.e., fiber, metal, plastic, glass, and organics) could be of commercial value if they were recycled. In addition, it costs the communities $22 million to dispose of these materials by landfill and incineration. Based on gap analysis findings, key recommendations for the Beyond 34 pilot include: Organize a recycling champions’ network; Develop a regional plan for recycling; Leverage technology to recover more commodity recyclables; Expand a backyard composting and food waste drop-off network; Develop supportive waste policies and incentives; and Engage public and private stakeholders through a collaborative communications campaign.
Food Waste Prevention Tracker
Ovie, a Chicago-based food tech start-up, is launching a series of products on Kickstarter, called Smarterware, to help people keep track of their food so they can eat it before it spoils. The product line consists of Smart Tags, clips, and universal connectors that can attach to any container or bottle in a fridge. Each tag features a light ring to give instant at-a-glance visual cues showing the freshness of every tagged item in the fridge. For instance, the light starts off on green meaning it’s safe to eat, then turns yellow to show it should be eaten soon, and then ultimately to red when it’s time to throw it out.
Ovie integrates its alert system with Alexa and other smart home hubs, recipe apps, and grocery apps. It tracks everything that is tagged and will send reminders to a smartphone when food is about to go bad. It will also provide tips on how to eat it, recipe ideas using other tagged items in the fridge, and even connect with grocery apps to allow users to order missing ingredients to complete a recipe. “We designed our smart tags to not only track food for notification purposes, but also to provide visual indicators to anyone in the household,” notes Dave Joseph, cofounder and head of product design. “The color changing light ring was key in making it extremely easy for every member of the household to see what food is important to eat now.”
Hotels See Return On Food Waste Reduction Investment
In a first-of-its kind analysis for the industry, “The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Hotels” evaluated financial cost and benefit data for 42 sites across 15 countries, and found that for every $1 hotels invested in programs to reduce kitchen food waste, on average they saved $7 in operating costs. The new research, conducted on behalf of Champions 12.3, explains that the 7:1 return on investment comes from buying less food and thereby reducing purchase costs, increasing revenue from new menu items developed from leftovers or foods previously considered “scraps,” and lower waste management costs. Within just one year, the hotels had reduced food waste from their kitchens by 21 percent on average, and over 70 percent had recouped their investment. Within two years, 95 percent had recouped their investment.
The types of investments hotels made include: measuring and monitoring the amount of food wasted, training staff on new food handling and storage procedures, and redesigning menus. Nearly 90 percent of sites were able to keep their total investment below $20,000, which was less than 1 percent of sales on average. This shows that the cost of change was low and the benefits were high for all businesses assessed. Champions 12.3 is an organization formed to implement the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3, which calls for cutting in half per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reducing food losses along production and supply chains (including post-harvest losses) by 2030.
Food Recovery, Recycling Reimbursements
The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has a $4 million grant from the New York State (NYS) Environmental Protection Fund (administered by the NYS Dept. of Economic Development) — to reimburse NYS generators producing more than one ton/week of food waste to purchase and install equipment or technologies that divert excess food and food scraps from landfill or incineration. Diversion includes donation and recycling. RIT is offering a reimbursement of 44 percent, up to $100,000 of total eligible equipment costs upon fulfillment of the program waste reduction requirements. Eligible projects must be led by New York State businesses, municipalities, or nonprofits.
In addition, the Food Bank Association of NYS will be administering a $2.8 million grant program to help regional food banks capture more food for donation. Many foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products often require refrigeration. This funding will help 10 regional food banks collect and store this perishable food longer, so it can better reach the soup kitchens, food pantries and other emergency feeding programs serving food-insecure people throughout the state.