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All About Food Waste

Why Recycle Food Waste?

Nearly 400,000 tons of waste are generated from businesses in Ramsey and Washington Counties, and almost 30% of that waste consists of food and food-soiled paper. By recycling food waste, restaurants, grocery stores, wholesale food distributors and commercial kitchens can put a lot of food to good use, keep food waste out of the trash and reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.

Adding food waste recycling allows businesses, organizations and schools to expand their recycling programs, show customers that they care about the community, and ease their burden on the environment. Diverting organics from your waste stream can also reduce taxes and fees on waste disposal and save money on trash hauling fees. 

What Options are There for Food Waste Recycling?

There are a variety of options depending on the type of food waste your business generates.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 25% to 40% of food grown, processed and transported in the United States will never be consumed.

Food donation or food-to-people is a great way to give back to the community. When your business has high-quality, surplus food that would otherwise go to waste, it can be donated to local food shelters instead. Second Harvest Heartland, a Minnesota nonprofit, salvages enough food to provide over 77,000 meals a year to food shelters.

  • Pros
    • Easy for restaurant staff
    • Helps feed the hungry and “food insecure”
    • Increases customer loyalty
    • Diverts waste from landfills
    • Lowers methane emissions by reducing waste
    • Yields tax savings for businesses
    • Builds employee morale
  • Cons
    • There are no cons

Your company is not liable for the product once it has been donated.

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (pdf) was created to encourage the donation of food and grocery products to 501(c)3 certified non-profit organizations. Under this Act, as long as the donor hasn’t acted with negligence or intentional misconduct, the company is not liable for damage incurred as a result of illness.

National Restaurant Association’s Conserve Program has a strong national program to assist businesses in their recycling and food waste reduction efforts.  

Food-to-hogs programs are an easy way for restaurants to recycle inedible food waste. In this process, all food and drink waste can be collected without being sorted. For example, Barthold Farms in St. Francis, Minnesota picks up food scraps on a weekly basis. Each barrel of organics typically costs about $4 to pick up, and the service is not taxed. There are many restaurants and schools in the East Metro already doing this.

  • Pro
    • Easy for restaurant and school staff
    • Allows for food and drink collection 
    • Increases customer loyalty
    • Diverts waste from landfills
    • Lowers methane emissions by reducing waste
    • Yields tax savings for businesses
    • Builds employee morale
  • Con 
    • Does not include coffee grounds and filters, paper towels, or food stained paper such as napkins

Here is a list of businesses your business can partner with to coordinate food scrap collection. Using special collection vehicles that cook the food scraps, they eliminate pathogens before the scraps are fed to their hogs.

With organics recycling, all food waste, fat, bones, paper towels, and food stained paper can be collected in one bin. This means that food scraps can be recycled along with paper towels, soiled paper napkins, coffee grounds and filters, etc. Although food does not need to be sorted from paper, liquids cannot be combined with organics recycling. 

Learn more about organics recycling here.

  • Pro 
    • Easy for restaurant staff
    • Allows for food and paper collection
    • Includes bones, shells, meat and fat
    • Potential cost saving
    • Easy to promote to customers
  • Con
    • Does not include liquid waste, such as beverages

Here are some easy ways to promote and inform your customers about your green business through organics recycling. 

Printed Materials

Include a note on all menus and printed materials expressing your concern for the environment and your recycling efforts. This could be as simple as a sentence included at the bottom of a menu. For example:

A Great Restaurant is dedicated to all aspects of our customers; surplus food is donated to the local community food shelf and all food scraps are diverted from landfills by food-to-animals programs.

In-Store Promotion

Placing table tents or information cards at each table is a great way to keep guests engaged with your restaurant. Encourage customers to ask servers for more information about what at their table will be recycled. Successful BizRecycling Grantees also receive custom window decals so your business can proudly proclaim your recycling programs.

Social Media

Social media is another great way to let your customers know about your recycling efforts. Take a picture of your food-to-hogs collection with a caption about diverting waste to livestock. Doing this shows that your business is proud, and your customers should be proud to visit your business.

Take the Next Step!

Contact us to get a free consultation with a Recycling Expert. Learn which organics recycling program is right for your business. Your Recycling Expert can help you apply for up to $10,000 in BizRecycling Grant money to offset the costs of improving or starting an organics or regular recycling program.