October 22, 2008 | General

Food Composting Infrastructure

BioCycle October 2008, Vol. 49, No. 10, p. 29
Third installment of BioCycle National Survey reports on food waste composting facilities and projects in the Southeast and Upper Midwest states.
Cristina Olivares and Nora Goldstein

IN MAY 2008, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD), in cooperation with the Georgia Recycling Coalition, The Coca-Cola Company and US EPA Region 4, held a day-long workshop titled “From the Table to the Farm: Options for Diverting Food from Landfills.” The purpose of the workshop was to explore options available for reducing the amount of food sent to landfills, including source reduction, procurement changes, food rescue/donation and composting.
The workshop grew out of a stakeholder meeting convened in November 2006 to address the fact that 12 percent – or more than 800,000 tons – of the waste sent to Georgia landfills each year is food waste, according to a statewide waste characterization study completed in 2005. This represents the largest single category of solid waste going into the state’s landfills. Approximately 48 percent of this comes from the greater Atlanta area. The stakeholder group identified barriers to diverting food waste in metro Atlanta, discussed how to overcome the barriers and prioritized potential projects.
“More than 60 people representing hotels, K-12 schools, universities, government agencies, nonprofits, farms and businesses attended the workshop this past May,” says Stephanie Busch with EPD. “Topics covered included food rescue, sustainable agriculture, purchasing locally grown organic food and the greenhouse gas connection to organics in the waste stream.”
EPD’s next step is to hold a series of facilitated stakeholder meetings to review Georgia’s composting rules and recommend modifications that could facilitate development of more processing infrastructure. Those meetings are expected to get underway this fall, with recommendations completed by late January. Developments in Georgia can be tracked at EPD’s food waste webpage,
Ohio is another state covered in this third installment of BioCycle’s National Survey of food waste composting facilities and projects in the Southeast and Upper Midwest. Like Georgia, there have been a series of stakeholder meetings and workshops in Ohio to advance diversion of food waste from landfills, sponsored by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Ohio Compost Association and The Ohio State University. Ohio DNR has provided grants to compost facilities and universities to facilitate food waste processing. Ohio EPA set up a webpage – – where there is easy access to permitting requirements and regulations, as well as case studies of existing projects.
As was discussed in last month’s survey installment (focusing on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states), regulations regarding food waste composting play a huge role in a state’s infrastructure to process these organics. “We have noticed that the regulations are make or break deals as to which states have thriving programs, and which don’t,” observes Chris Newman, who works in the Materials Management Branch at the US EPA’s Region 5 office.
This national survey is appearing in multiple issues – August 2008 through December 2008. Municipal, commercial and farm-based composting facilities processing food waste are included, along with colleges and universities. BioCycle is using the US EPA’s regional breakdown of the states and territories (there are 10 regions in total). This article reports on Regions 4 and 5. Region 4 comprises the Southeast states; Region 5 comprises the Upper Midwest states.
Table 1 summarizes the distribution of food waste composting facilities by sector in the two regions. BioCycle editors identified food waste composting projects in six of the eight Region 4 states (all but Alabama and Mississippi). In the Southeast, there are 7 commercial composters – 5 in North Carolina and 2 in Georgia – and 4 municipal sites receiving food waste (one each in Florida and Georgia and 2 in Tennessee). There are 11 colleges and universities – 7 in North Carolina, and one each in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina – and 3 farms composting food waste (1 in Georgia and 2 in North Carolina).
In Region 5, the Upper Midwest, all 6 states have food waste composting projects. Editors identified 9 commercial composters accepting food waste – 4 in Ohio, 2 in Wisconsin and one each in Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota – and 8 municipal sites composting food waste (4 in Minnesota and 2 each in Michigan and Wisconsin). There are 12 colleges and universities with projects – 3 in Minnesota, 3 in Ohio, 2 in Illinois, 2 in Wisconsin, one each in Indiana and Michigan – as well as 7 farms composting food waste (3 in Wisconsin, and one each in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio).
In Table 2, composting facilities were categorized by size. There are 11 facilities in the Southeast and 8 in the Upper Midwest in the 0 to 200 tons/year (tpy) range, 1 facility in the Southeast and 4 in the Upper Midwest in the 200 to 1,000 tpy range, 2 facilities in the Southeast and 5 in the Upper Midwest in the 1,000 to 5,000 tpy range, and finally 4 facilities in the Southeast and 13 in the Upper Midwest receiving over 5,000 tpy.
Table 3 lists all commercial, municipal, farm and colleges/universities composting food waste in the Southeast. There are a total of 25 projects. (Note that Greenco, in Barnesville, Georgia, was to begin composting food waste October 1, 2008.) Table 4 lists those in the Upper Midwest; total number of projects is 36.

Sign up