A staggering amount of food waste is making its way into North Carolina landfills, according to a new report by the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Businesses and residents generate more than 1.1 million tons of food waste each year, the report, which was repared by the Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach, states. The study estimates that food makes up at least 12 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW) in North Carolina.
N.C. Recycling Director Scott Mouw says it is time to take a serious look at diversion programs that would stop food waste from ending up in landfills.
“Food waste diversion represents a major opportunity for the state to increase material recovery and should become an increasing priority for local and state recycling programs, as well as food waste generators such as supermarkets and restaurants,” said Mouw. “Since curbside recycling is on the rise, and we’ve made progress with many other recyclable materials, food waste is the next frontier for reducing the state’s dependence on solid waste landfills.”
Large-scale diversion of food waste from disposal is uncharted territory for most communities around the United States. However, DEAO estimates that more than 60,000 tons of waste per year are already being diverted from North Carolina landfills through collection and composting of separated food from individual businesses and institutions, subscription residential food waste collection services, commercial donations to food kitchens and household backyard composting.
The report suggests that DENR and local governments work to build up and expand the collection of food waste from the commercial and retail sector, such as large supermarket chains.
To encourage the development of food waste diversion efforts, DENR is co-hosting the Southeast Food Waste Reduction Conference in Charlotte this fall. This conference is designed to provide composting and organics recycling professionals in both the public and private sector with new insights to create successful food waste diversion programs in both residential and commercial settings.
More information about this conference can be found online at: www.cra-recycle.org/foodwasteconference/.