Food waste is generated from many sources: food manufacturing and processing facilities; supermarkets; institutions such as schools, prisons, and hospitals; restaurants and food courts; and households. Food waste is categorized as either pre-consumer (i.e., preparatory food scraps) or post-consumer waste (e.g., leftover food or plate scrapings).
Food service providers (e.g., supermarkets, institutions, restaurants) produce a significant amount of food waste each day. Wake County encourages these large-scale food waste generators to manage their surplus food and to implement a food waste diversion program. Separating and managing food scraps can result in both economic and environmental benefits.
1. Assess your food waste
Take a quick look at the food waste you are throwing away and identify potential food recovery opportunities to decrease the amount you generate.
2. Conduct a food waste audit
For more detailed information, track and collect data on the types and amounts of each food scrap item you are generating. Collecting this data will help you determine if some of your food waste can be reduced by ordering or producing less, how much could be sent to food banks or shelters, and how much could be recycled through animal feeding, rendering or composting.
3. Plan for costs
There are costs related to collecting, transporting, and composting food scraps. Talk to neighboring organizations about also instituting food waste collection at their facilities to create a cost-effective route for your hauler. You also might be able to generate revenue by selling compost created from your food waste. Use the EPA's Food Waste Management Calculator to estimate the cost competitiveness of alternatives to food waste disposal, including source reduction, donation, composting, and recycling of fats, oils, and grease.
4. Decide what food waste recovery option works best for you
The quantity and quality of your food scraps and your estimated generation rate will help you consider how to divert your food waste. To learn about waste disposal options contact haulers or composting facilities in the area. Here are some options:
Use your waste audit to identify ways to decrease the amount of food waste you generate. Are there any trends in the types and amounts of food waste you produce? If so, consider changing your business operation to buy only what you use.
You can donate unsold or excess food products that meet quality and safety standards to food banks. Many national and local food recovery programs offer free pickups and containers. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (Public Law 104-210) protects food donators from legal liability.
Local Food Banks:
Determine if local farmers or zoos use food scraps as animal feed. There are laws and regulations protecting animals from contracting diseases through consumption of food scraps. Contact your county agricultural extension office, your state veterinarian, or your county health department to find out about specific state regulations and contact information for licensed farmers. You also might find companies that convert food scraps into animal food products.
Fat, oil and grease can be rendered into a raw material to make biodiesel, soaps and cosmetics. Anaerobic digestion of food scraps and waste oils produces biogas that can generate heat and electricity, fiber that can be used as a nutrient-rich soil conditioner, and liquor that can be used for fertilizer.
Food scraps can be composted. Ask the composting facility you plan to use for a list of acceptable materials and hauling options.
Local Composting Facilities:
5. Start the program
Employee training is vital to the success of a food waste recovery program. You might want to consider an incentive program for employee participation.
Have questions or need more information? Contact Meghan O'Connor or call 919-856-7400.