In October 2020, the Center for EcoTechnology (CET), a nonprofit working in the wasted food reduction and diversion movement for over 20 years, began a partnership with solid waste management districts (SWMDs) in Southwest Ohio through an EPA Region 5 Sustainable Materials Management grant to prevent and divert food waste from businesses and institutions. “This project is a terrific example of collaboration between SWMDs to achieve a common goal and maximize efficiencies, with dedicated efforts provided by staff at the Hamilton, Butler, Montgomery, Warren, and Adams-Clermont Districts,” notes Lorenzo Macaluso, Director of Client Services at CET. The attention that the districts are bringing to the region is evident through a variety of sustainability planning initiatives.
To establish a baseline of existing practices and opportunities, the initial phase of the project involved conducting a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of the regional wasted food marketplace. CET staff conducted research through interviews with generators, service providers and district representatives to inform the project’s next steps. The resulting SWOT report includes information about current practices as well as recommendations for short-, medium-, and long-term solutions to expanding capacity for and increasing diversion in the region. In addition to the next steps of providing educational workshops and technical assistance, recommendations from the report encompass a wide variety of strategies. Examples include developing legal fact sheets to review the considerations for food rescue, creating a directory of service providers to outline food waste reduction, recovery, and recycling options, and supporting a pilot program for composting to demonstrate the potential for success with this type of processing.
CET identified a variety of opportunities and challenges. Despite low landfill tip fees and no food waste bans, innovative solutions to processing materials have developed. Several area generators have established internal programs that encourage prevention as an opportunity to save costs and eliminate waste before it is created. A diverse group of food rescue organizations covers portions of the area to recover food. Organics haulers and processors employ creative solutions as well. Area stakeholders are exploring opportunities to incorporate food waste into anaerobic digestion facilities. There are a number of examples of these efforts, such as Tikkun Farm, which redistributes surplus food from organizations in Hamilton County, prioritizing food rescue, then animal feed, and lastly composting. Another is The Foodbank, Inc. in Dayton, which received support from the Ohio EPA, Kroger Zero Hunger Zero Waste Foundation, Central State University, and a private donor to install an in-vessel Green Mountain Technologies’ Earth Flow composting unit on-site. This machine processes food that must be discarded due to spoilage, while creating compost for the organization’s urban garden and saving money on disposal and finished compost costs.
CET is coordinating two training workshops with the SWMDs, geared toward helping institutional kitchens and food retailers and manufacturers implement prevention, donation, and diversion programs. These events are open to the public, and tailored to address the concerns of entities in Southwest Ohio. Informed by outcomes of the SWOT, programming will include sector-specific best practices, information about area-specific resources, and facilitated networking between commercial food waste generators and service providers.
Following the workshops, interested businesses in the area will receive no-cost technical assistance from CET to support implementation of strategies across the Food Recovery Hierarchy. “This is an excellent opportunity to apply lessons learned from the workshops to local businesses,” notes Coryanne Mansell, Strategic Services Representative at CET. Workshop registration for Wasted Food Strategies for Institutional Kitchens is currently open and businesses located in Southwest Ohio are encouraged to register. The second workshop, Wasted Food Strategies for Food Manufacturers and Retailers, will be offered in April. Learn more about CET’s Wasted Food Solutions.