More waste and recycling technology companies are rolling out new carts for organic waste, including the new Organics Cart from SSI SCHAEFER. However, not many people outside the waste industry know why these carts are so important. Organic waste can be collected by haulers for composting or sent to anaerobic digestion facilities. Join us for a brief look at the conservation efforts, legislation, and benefits responsible for changing how many American cities and municipalities dispose of organic waste.
Harnessing the Power of Organic Waste
Before diving into new organic waste guidelines, it is important to understand how energy producers harness waste to create biogas. Many new disposal processes collect organic waste for use at an anaerobic digestion facility.
Anaerobic digestion refers to a process in which bacteria break down organic matter. This occurs only when oxygen isn’t present. This process is utilized to create biogas by placing organic materials in sealed containers – reactors – that contain microbial properties to break down the waste. The reactors discharge biogas used to create electricity, heat, vehicle fuel, and renewable natural gas.
Anaerobic digestion has a slew of benefits for the environment and economy. Since the legally binding international Paris Agreement treaty in 2015, an increasing number of countries have turned to cogeneration, another word for turning organic food waste into biogas. Adopting a long-term cogeneration policy allows these countries to meet the standards set by the Paris Agreement to achieve a climate-neutral world by mid-century. The best part? No coal or nuclear power facilities are needed. This type of energy is produced using materials most people usually throw away, creating a cost-efficient and clean answer to keeping the lights on.
Using Organic Waste for Composting
In addition to creating energy through anerobic digestion, organic waste is also used for composting. Prevalent on the west coast, composting removes organic waste from landfills, selling it to farms and wineries. Agriculture operations use this compost to enrich the nutrients of soil and introduce beneficial microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and protozoa for aeration.
San Francisco has practiced mandatory organic waste collection and composting since 2009. Many residents reported that the change was barely noticeable since most were already sorting out recyclables. Additionally, the city provides incentives to compost by charging less for recycling and composting bins versus landfill bins. According to Guillermo Rodriguez, spokesman for the San Francisco Department of the Environment, the incentive was highly effective.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal city or a conservative city, when you knock on the door and… the government tells you ‘I’m here to save you money,’ people listen,” he said. “That has worked really well for us.”
In 2017, only 8 years after adopting composting city-wide, San Francisco boasted an 80% landfill diversion rate, becoming the greenest city in North America. These rates measure the amount of waste redirected from landfills. At that time, the nationwide average was only 35%.
New Laws Enacted to Prevent Food Waste
To harness the power of anaerobic digestion and composting, processes must be put in place to collect residential and commercial food waste. In 2011, Connecticut became the first U.S. state to pass a commercial organic waste law. California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont followed suit in 2014, with New York joining them in 2019.
Connecticut legislation targets commercial entities that generate a significant amount of food waste, like supermarkets and food manufacturers. According to the law, these businesses must divert food waste to an organics processing facility. Earlier this year, legislators expanded the law to encompass additional businesses. Under this law, companies can donate extra food to the needy, adopt in-house organics processing, utilize the food for animal feed, or send the waste to an anaerobic digestion facility.
Other states operate similarly. Massachusetts banned organic waste from landfills altogether, while California requires that certain businesses subscribe to waste recycling services. Under Rhode Island’s law, certain organizations must divert organic waste to approved composting or anaerobic digestion facilities. These bans are occurring on a local level too, with Portland, OR and Hennepin County, MN recently passing new organic waste guidelines. Experts project that additional states and municipalities will follow suit in the coming years.
The Necessity of Waste Legislation
The United States has a food waste problem – over 40% of food produced annually is thrown away. This volume is unsustainable for both the environment and the economy, representing roughly $162 billion of wasted food annually. Further, the country spends an estimated $218 billion each year to grow and transport food that is thrown away. With 50 million Americans currently struggling with food insecurity, this volume of waste equals 58 billion meals per year. Additionally, food waste is the largest component of municipal landfills, comprising 15% of the U.S. methane gas emissions. Methane is a strong greenhouse gas with the potential to harm the environment and contribute to climate change.
There are many contributors to food waste in the United States, and the issue is pervasive in all parts of the supply chain at farms (16%), manufacturers (2%), businesses (40%), and most of all, households (42%). Organic waste bans and guidelines work hard to combat staggering food waste statistics, reducing the amount of waste and utilizing it to create energy and feed the hungry. On the federal level, the USDA and EPA hope to cut food waste in half by 2030 under the “Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative.”
Organic Waste Disposal Solutions
To make disposing of food waste easier for residents and haulers in municipalities with food waste laws, waste technology companies are rolling out organics waste carts. Designed to be air-tight and leak-resistant, these carts are specially designed to keep smells and liquids contained.
The organics waste cart from SSI SCHAEFER is made of 100% recyclable material and features an injection-molded body for increased durability. Water-tight, leakproof, and easy-to-clean, this cart is a smart choice for any city or hauler.