Emmet County Recycling, in partnership with 20 local restaurants and florists, conducted a Food Scraps Pilot Project June-October 2015. Our goal was to get experience collecting and composting food “waste” with an eye to developing full commercial and residential food waste collection services in the future.
A couple of quick statistics suggest why wasted food is gaining the spotlight nationally:
- 30-40% of the food grown in the United States is wasted. Only a tiny portion of this is the inevitable inedible trimmings–bones, citrus peels, lettuce stubs and the like. Good food is lost every step of the way from farm to fork: on the farm, in transport, in processing, at retail, in restaurants, and at home.
- Food “waste” is 21% of the material going into landfills in the United States. In fact food is the largest component of discards by weight.
Overall, the Emmet County pilot collected 90,000 gallons of food and floral scraps for composting. During the busiest week, which was mid August, 3,380 gallons were collected in one day. The largest overall volumes came from flower shops, with each store filling up to 384 gallons per week.
A.R. Pontius Flower Shop in Harbor Springs had the highest volume of scraps diverted. 5,440 gallons of flower scraps were collected in just 20 weeks. “Between our recycling and flower scrap composting with Emmet County we have nearly eliminated all garbage” said Jamie Platte, owner of A.R. Pontius Flower Shop.
City Park Grill was the restaurant with the largest food scrap diversion, with over 4,000 gallons of collected for composting.
Packaging is a major obstacle to recovering food which may be wasted, but the pilot illustrated some possible solutions. For example, the Manna Food Project–which supplies local food pantries–can’t distribute food in dented cans to people, but they have found a way to recover some of the value of the food: Manna is going to open the dented cans and use the food to feed pigs which will, in turn, supply them with pork. This will also allow them to recycle the cans. Manna plans to purchase an industrial can opener for this process.
The only grocery store in the program was the Harbor Springs IGA. When asked what the benefits of the program were, owner Suzanne Hug replied, “It was a total no-brainer, I didn’t have to think about separating meat from vegetable scrap, cooked from raw.”
The Friendship Centers of Emmet County was another star of the program. With a late start in July, they managed to divert 1,536 gallons of food scrap from their waste stream. Their scraps came from meals prepared at the Friendship Center. They go above and beyond by freezing their leftovers and delivering up to 160 meals each day for the Meals on Wheels program.
When asked “What were some of the features of the food scrap collection program that you liked the most?” Chris Dettmar from American Spoon Foods responded ease of use. “ Coming from San Francisco restaurants previous to American Spoon, they had food scrap collection, but there were limitations to what could and couldn’t go in the bin. I found your food scrap collection program to be very user friendly. “
Emmet County Recycling not only worked with local businesses, but they participated in food waste collection at two events this summer: The Paul Revere Run and D’art for Art. Both events have had food collection in the past, but this is the first time that the scraps have gone to Emmet County’s Drop-off Center for processing.
In order to complete the loop, the food scraps are combined with yard waste to make compost at Emmet County’s facility. This compost, called “black gold” by a local landscaper, is independently tested for quality and can be purchased at 7363 Pleasantview Rd, Harbor Springs Michigan in the spring.
Overall, the program was a success and many ideas were generated for the future of Food Scrap Recycling. Emmet County Recycling is in the early planning stages, but expects to grow the program for 2016.
The Bigger Picture
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are six methods of addressing wasted food, as shown in the pyramid above. There are lots of great resources on the web if you’d like to learn what you can do at home.
These signs were provided to participating businesses to let their customers know they were part of the pilot.
Participating Restaurants and Florists:
American Spoon Gelato Café and Production Facilities
City Park Grill
Flowers from Sky’s the Limit
The Friendship Center
Harbor Springs IGA
Independence Village of Petoskey
Little Traverse Bay Golf Club and Restaurant
Manna Food Project
Monarch Garden and Floral Design
The New York Restaurant
Petoskey Bay View Country Club
Pontious Flower Shop
Roast and Toast
Stafford’s H.O. Rose Room
Tom’s Mom’s Cookies
Resources for Participating Restaurants
Be in Touch!
We are eager to hear from participating restaurants and florists about your experience separating your food scraps for composting! Whether compliments, observations, concerns or criticisms, please contact us anytime at:
Recycle@EmmetCounty.org or 231-348-0640.
Need more signs, labels, handouts, etc? Here are full-color PDFs: