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Mallory Szczepanski | June 21, 2017

Waste360 has identified five key trends that are shaping how the industry is managing food waste.

With awareness of food waste spreading like wildfire, it’s no surprise that the waste and recycling industry has developed a number of different ways to keep both edible and inedible wasted food out of landfill.

Each year, $218 billion worth of food is thrown away, 72 billion pounds of food is lost each year, 21 percent of landfill volume is comprised of food waste and 21 percent of fresh water is used to produce food that is discarded, according to nonprofit Feeding America.

In an effort to reduce those numbers, the industry has launched organics collection services, various technologies and facilities for handling food waste and some municipalities have taken the step to launch legislation and regulations around food waste. Here, Waste360 has identified five key trends that are shaping how the industry is managing food waste. While some of these trends aren’t new, they are important, and they are expanding at a quick pace.

Organics Collection

Municipalities and haulers across the globe are working to divert food waste from landfill by rolling out both residential and commercial organics collection services. Minnesota’s Hennepin County, for example, has launched residential curbside organics collection programs in several cities and will soon propose mandatory recycling for businesses in an effort to reach 15 percent organics diversion by 2030.

The State of California, which is currently suffering with recycling rates and efforts, has also set aggressive targets for organics waste diversion. The state, which has a commercial organics waste mandate for specific jurisdictions and businesses, is working toward halving its 2014 rate of how much organic waste was sent to landfill by 2020.

Montreal is another municipality offering residential curbside organics collection. It recently set a goal to provide all houses and small apartment buildings with curbside organics collection services by 2019.

Anaerobic Digestion Facilities

Anaerobic digestion (AD) to target the solid waste stream is beginning to get off the ground in the U.S.  Switzerland-based Hitachi Zosen Inova, for example, is preparing to launch its first AD plant in the U.S. in San Luis Obispo, California.  The plant will process 33,000 tons of commingled food and green waste per year, turning it into electricity.

The state of Hawaii has also approved an AD facility, which will be built in Waikoloa.  The plant will be able to accept up to 200 tonnes of material per day and is expected to open in summer 2019.

Additionally, some traditional haulers have built their own AD sites to help reduce organic waste.  One of those haulers is Burrtec Waste Industry, with sister company EDCO, which has a pre-anaerobic digestion operation that removes contaminants and turns waste into slurry before it’s transported to a digester in Chino, California.

While composting isn’t a new trend, it’s a growing trend.  Over the years, more and more municipalities and waste companies have addressed the issue of food and yard waste by launching convenient composting services and opening composting facilities.

Recently, the city of Phoenix announced that it’s working with a company to build, manage and operate a $16 million compost facility, which will compost approximately 55,000 tons of material annually and reduce the city’s overall waste by 11 percent.

Some companies are also developing composting technologies that meet air permitting requirements.  BioMRF Technologies, for example, developed a tunnel composting system that works in synergy with AD.

Industry organizations are also joining forces to conduct useful studies on processing facilities and composting   processes.  The Compost Manufacturing Alliance, a private industry group representing six comp0sting industry organizations recently launched a field testing program for compostable food service ware feedstocks across 20 processing facilities in the United States.

Donations to Feed the Hungry

Under the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, the industries manufacturing, retail, restaurant and waste and recycling have joined forces to keep edible food out of landfill through donations.

“Forty percent of what’s grown, harvested and transported in the United States is never consumed, “says Ted Monk, vice president of corporate responsibility for Sodexo, USA.  “It’s shocking when there are 48 million food insecure people in this country.  So our aim is to encourage our managers to connect in communities where they work to ensure no food goes to waste.”

Nonprofit organization Feeding America is also working to rescue edible food.  Each year, the nonprofit resuces approximately 2.8 billion pounds of food to help feed hungry Americans.  And Karen Hanner, managing director of manufacturing product sourcing for Feeding America, believes waste companies can boost Feed America’s efforts.

“As haulers work with their customers, they can encourage them to separate out and donate, “she says.  “They see patterns of food that could be salvaged so they can serve as community partners by feeding people and capturing what should not be wasted.”

A longtime member of the waste and recycling industry, Chaz Miller, director of policy/advocacy of the National Waste and Recycling Association, recently reflected on his experience volunteering at a food bank.

“To My surprise, working at a food bank was also a good lesson the importance of good packaging in avoiding food waste,” says Miller.  “We filled several trash cans with food that could not be donated.  In most cases, it was due to what I would call ‘package failure.’”

Technology is starting to enter various parts of the waste and recycling sector, from sorting to driving to safety. And recently, technologies to help combat food waste have been on the rise.

InSinkErator, an Emerson business, offers generators of at least one ton of food waste a week a way to divert from landfill and bypass the sewer system, while creating electricity, heat or compressed natural gas. Its latest technology, Grind2Energy, captures food waste and turns it to slurry, which goes into a holding tank, is pumped to a transport tank and transported to AD facilities to be turned into renewable energy.

BioHiTech Global, Inc., a Chestnut Ridge, N.Y.-based green technology company that creates innovative data-driven solutions for the disposal of food waste, is also working to combat food waste via technology. The company’s second generation of its mobile app, BioHiTech Cirrus 2.2, includes new features that deliver improved information accessibility and transparency into food waste creation, allowing users to identify inefficiencies and improve operating margins in real-time.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts is another company striving to reduce food waste from its properties. Hilton has partnered with ORCA, a subsidiary of Totally Green Inc., to add food waste disposal systems to a number of its hotels. The food waste disposal systems dispose of food waste onsite and convert the organic waste into environmentally safe water, which ultimately eliminates disposal costs and improves the health and safety of employees.