When dealing with organic waste the best solution is always to avoid it (see our article about food waste), but that’s not always possible. So what to do with the remaining organic waste? We’ll explore below different possibilities to reuse and recycle them.
According to the Mac Arthur foundation separating thoroughly natural material that can integrate the biosphere safely is one of the key component of circular economy models (see their famous infographic). Doing so generates multiple benefits:
- Avoiding moisture in your bins which will:
- prevent technical components (non organic) to lose their recycling or reusing potential,
- permits less regular trash collections as the size and bad smell will be reduced.
- Preventing it to end up (according to where you live) in:
- sanitary landfill causing harmful greenhouse gas emission,
- incinerators bringing little calorific value,
- open dump site contaminating air, water and creating a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and insects.
- Providing opportunities to:
- generate local energy,
- fertilize fields,
- capture carbon,
- provide free mulching.
- Organic waste accounts for 30% (in OECD) to 70 % (in developing countries) of the total waste amount of households bins.
- Up to 40 % of the food produced worldwide is thrown away. If food waste was a country, it would be the 3rd biggest producer of green house gas. In France 36% of green house gas is produced by the food industry.
We wrote an article detailing specifically the food waste issue and possible solutions: click here to read it!
Identify: What kind of organic waste are you throwing away? What are you currently doing with it?
- Food waste: what is mostly ending up in the bin of your restaurant?
- Garden waste: do you have outdoor spaces? what’s happening with your green waste?
Sort out trash containers: learn more.
Measure / estimate: Separate food waste from other waste and start weighing it: how many kilograms are you throwing away? Make a ratio per number of customers to get an overall average.
Follow up on key indicators: learn more.
Always keep in mind the waste hierarchy to frame how you should focus your efforts for greater impact. Here is a good one for food waste from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
#1 Feed animals
Feeding animals with foodscraps used to be a very common practice. Hens, pigs, goats can absorb huge quantities
Possible if you can either have your own animals or get your organic waste collected by local farmers. After the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in 2001, some european countries have banned unprocessed restaurant waste to be used as animal feed
It is a good story to communicate
It revives traditionnal practices
It reduces carbon emissions
You might have to segregate animal products
Take local legislation into account
- .The pig idea in the UK campaign to restore public confidence in the safe, efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly practice of feeding surplus food to pigs and prototype their solutions collecting organic waste from several caterers in London
In the United States, Quest Resource Management Group offers solutions for companies aiming to reach zero waste in their activities. Through a partnership with Walmart, they have been able to divert 60% of their organic waste, and redirected it to animal feed.
Collect organic waste and make a compost out of it. It could be your own compost (in the garden or vermicomposting), a collective one with your neighbors or collected and reused by an outside organization.
Possible if: you have some free space or if there is an organization collecting organic waste in your city. Don’t install the composter less than ten meters away from habitation buildings, your neighbours and customers might complain about smells or flies.
Save money: free natural fertilizer! You could even distribute to your more loyal customers some of this organic gold 😉
No more stinky trash: what makes your bins smell bad is mostly the organic waste which is rotting inside it. Once you sort out organic waste and make compost out of it, you’re getting rid of the main smelly factor!
Requires anticipation and know how: in the beginning you will need to take some time to set up the compost and to learn how to balance it well (what to put and not to put). But once the new habit is implemented, it does’nt really take much more time to just put your organic waste in the compost rather than in the bin.
- Read our detailed article about composting
- Alter’hostel (Lyon, France) gathered 60 neighbours and launched a collective compost. Manon, their civic service volunteer, accompanied the group with the starting steps. She provided some training to explain what can be composted or not and how to keep a balanced compost. Now the group is autonomous and the compost became a great way to make connections between neighbors.
- Read our article about how to choose and implement smartly trash containers.
Témoignage du Lycée des Savarières (en français)
#3 Anaerobic digestion
Anaerobic digestion is a collection of processes by which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen used for industrial or domestic purposes to manage waste and to produce energy
there are available infrastructures networks of waste collectors thant can bring waste to the facilities
Unlike composting, anaerobic digestion can process any quantity of any organic waste (oranges, meat, sauces)
You can produce and consume energy locally
The sanitization process avoid contamination
Not always possible if there is not nearby facilities
- Biogen is a leader in terms of organic waste management in the UK, diverting half a million tonnes of organic waste a year through its composting sites and anaerobic digestion plants. With their processes, they are able to provide 25MW of green electricity, which is enough for a one year supply of electricity for a town of 170 000 inhabitants.
Provide cheap local energy..
.Requires specific collection and storage device..
- Rotie offers a collecting service for households for their used cooking oil in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Unfortunately, most cooking oils are flushed into the sewer system, which is for one hand very costly in terms of maintenance for the city with the blockages that are caused, and on the other very damaging for the environment. With more than 1000 collection points, Rotie diverts this waste and upcycles it into biodiesel.
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