Event seeks to connect post-consumer food waste generators and compost consumers

Sep232015

Table to farm

Tires, glass and metal are diverted away from the Twin Chimneys Landfill in Greenville County through recycling programs, but what about the banana peels, vegetable trimmings and yard waste?

About 20 percent of what goes into landfills is food waste and another 20 percent is other organic waste, according to Marcia Papin, Greenville County solid waste manager. To connect partners who can help divert organic material from the landfill, get it to compost operations and sell the product, the SC Department of Commerce is hosting a Food Waste Recovery Networking Event.

A composting operation can use the woody mulch ground from yard waste at the landfill and mix it with post-consumer food waste, creating a rich humus, said Anna Lange, recycling market development manager with the SC Department of Commerce.

The Oct. 6 event is designed to connect suppliers of wood waste, food waste generators, haulers, composting operators and purchasers of the end product, like landscapers, nurseries or farmers, said Lange.

Material to spare

 

The Twin Chimneys landfill operation now grinds just enough mulch to meet the market need, said Papin. Some is given away to county residents and some is sold; however, much is left over and must be added to the landfill.

“We can generate 35,000 tons each year, but only 3,500 tons goes out to the market,” she said. It is not efficient to pile up any excess yard waste because it must be managed carefully, “or it will catch on fire,” said Papin.

The landfill has approximately 8 acres available to run a food composting operation, and finding a company to run composting would be an excellent public-private partnership, said Papin.

“Co-locating a food waste composter with a wood waste facility is a perfect market,” said Papin. An ideal capacity for a composting operation would be approximately 8,000 tons annually, she said. A composter with a controlled recipe could optimize the time it takes to “cure” the compost and get it ready for sale, she said.

Atlas Organics is reportedly investigating an operation in the Upstate.

Simple separation

 

Preparing organic material for composting is as simple as tossing food scraps and biodegradable material into a different bin, said Lange. Composting operations now exist in Columbia and Charleston; however, food waste generators in the Upstate often haul their waste to Asheville, she said. A composting operation in Greenville County could serve the entire Upstate, said Lange.

In addition to those who send their organic waste to other operations, several food waste producers could come on board fairly quickly, she said. “Publix is a strong leader already separating its food waste,” she said.

Publix’s sustainability manager is set to speak at the Oct. 6 event along with representatives from Loaves and Fishes, Divergent Energy, Elemental Impact, Atlas Organics, Junk Matters and Feed and Seed.

This “matchmaking” event, which also includes speed networking, will put all the stakeholders in the same room and allow them to determine how they can collaborate, said Lange. In addition to the recent federal announcement to reduce food waste, SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has set a statewide goal of having 40 percent of waste recycled by 2020, she said.

“Right now it hovers at about 30,” she said. If food waste could be diverted and recycled into compost, she said, “this would get us there.”