Food waste: it’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue and mind. Harvest’s contributed article in BioEnergy Insight focuses on urban organic food waste and the drivers that shape collection and processing. A taste:
Since feedstocks have such a large influence on the rest of this proverbial and literal food chain, Harvest wanted to dive into characteristics that shape feedstock generation and collection, and provide best practices for sorting with success.
Household access to food waste collection has doubled from 2014 to 2017, to over 5 million households. This trend is just the tip of the iceberg…lettuce.
Having taken the last bite of an apple while traveling with friends down a highway, I was confronted head on with a conundrum: how do I do what’s best for the environment and what’s right for me? Staring at the apple core in the backseat, I knew all of my options intimately:
Eliminate it. I could eat the apple core.
Compost it locally. This was an option when we arrived at our destination.
Compost it commercially. Organics collection by the local hauler might serve an option.
Landfill it. I could put it in a dumpster, where it would be sent to a landfill. Not only would its nutrients be trapped indefinitely, but it would likely inefficiently produce methane, a greenhouse gas 1,000 times more potent than CO2.
Normally, I would have paused at this juncture, made a decision (likely to compost it locally), and moved on. But this moment felt loaded. First, I had recently approved Harvest’s latest social media content, which included “Apple Cores Are a Myth” and a video on eating apple cores like a boss.
Costs. This apple core didn’t seem like much, but fresh in my mind was the $13 billion number from the social media post. A lot of energy had gone into growing this apple – planting the tree, tilling the earth, watering, pruning, harvesting – and was I part of the problem if I did not enjoy each and every bite down to the last nub?
Societal Norms. One of the most powerful ways to shape behavior is to have folks try to keep up with their neighbors (and friends) habits. My partner eats his apple core (I’ve always thought that was weird.) No one in my present company ate their cores.
Interests. In theory, I always want to help save the planet. In reality, I still eat meat and fly places, which are pretty high up on the food chain of planet-degradation activities. So would one measly apple core make a difference?
In the end, I decided that eating the apple core was not for me; that I’d rather throw it under some shrubbery where it would break down and nourish the soil.
Recyclers are typically known for driving the circular economy: e.g. putting things back to use instead of to the landfill. At Harvest, we’ve noticed a trend in the media signaling that foodies and health conscious folks are increasingly shaping the conversation. Here are four reasons why this might be happening.
Targeting wasted food saves money and resources.
Folks in the restaurant industry know that, in the United States, 40% of the food we produce is going to waste (see Wasted! video, below). Targeting this dumpster-bound material by with the classic three R’s – reducing it (aligning supply with demand with data-driven programs such as LeanPath), reusing it (see this clever reuse of food waste in ice cream), or recycling it (composting) – saves costs and resources. Foodie and columnist Andy Clurfeld spurred her restauranteer readers to do just this in NJ Monthly’s article, “Waste Not: Pro Chef, Home Cook – Everyone Can Compost.
Good soil grows yummier food.
By recycling organics back to the earth, it improves the soil which enhances the crop’s flavor. Increasingly, restaurants have direct relationships with local sources of produce and protein. Those same farms that provide veggies can then possibly take in the veggie scraps for composting. Compost begets healthier soil, which yields stronger, tastier veggies. It’s a full circle of win win wins.
People care about safe and clean environments.
Speaking of circles, the apt phrase “What goes around comes around” comes into play when we’re talking about organic waste and healthy soil. Compost helps eliminate the bad, and helps boost the good. As Harvest recently contributed to a New England publication:
Did you know that in one teaspoon of living soil there are 100 million to 1 billion bacteria? These bacteria act like an enormous, microscopic, hungry army that metabolizes surrounding materials. Similar to if you surrounded yourself with a robust community of diverse individuals that supported your growth, compost is like a mini ecosystem party. The billions of microorganisms in each teaspoon of compost mentioned earlier in this article help regulate the soil, suppress disease, and discourage pests. It’s a small, wild world teeming with life, and compost helps the good guys keep playing all season long.
Food waste is the epicenter of energy, nutrients, and innovation.
Recently, Edible Orlando columnist Marta Madigan took a tour of Harvest’s Energy Garden in Orlando, Florida. In the resulting article she describes the transformation of regional food scraps into clean energy and class AA granular fertilizer. With this facility, Central Florida is at the forefront of innovation.
Do you consider yourself a foodie or a health nut? What’s your interaction with food waste?
Accessible visuals. While some characterized the cartoons as “Jabba the Hutt-esque and scary,” they show some fairly intricate processes – sorting out plastics; turning organics into compost; turning organics into biogas used to power homes and fuel vehicles – with simple diagrams.
Dense city! The author provides a sense of the scale of the city with these statements: “Smaller cities like Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; and Seattle all have mandatory programs. But the population of those three places combined is smaller than Brooklyn or Queens alone.”
Good portrayal of challenges. Many of the barriers to organic waste recycling – collection, hauling, costs, and processing – come to life. She notes that composters “are accustomed to processing farm waste like rotting vegetables, which is somewhat different from handling the Chinese takeout and fettuccine Alfredo that city dwellers toss.”
Super links. Not only is the article well researched, but also includes links to actionable items in the Q&A at the end of the article.
The US Composting Council hosted its 25th annual conference in Los Angeles. Harvest was a proud sponsor of the conference, and provided safety gear for the legendary “Demo Days” event at the City of Lopez Canyon Compost Facility. Ops attendees included Ted C., Chris F., Brent B., and Stewart M. Check out the beautiful scene in the following photos (photos thanks to Ted):
Summer is a delicious season. With melons, berries, and fruits dripping with juicy goodness, it’s easy to have sweets – natural sweets – on the counter. Alas! Those yummy fruits also beckon the little buggers known as fruit flies. If you would like to banish fruit flies – in any season – but do not want to hassle with plastic wrap, pin pricks, or creating other traps, try this trick:
Put some apple cider vinegar into a dish. (Any kind of cider will do, you only need a little layer – like a 1/2 cup, and a bowl or cup works. Make it easy on yourself.)
Add a few drops of dishwashing soap. (Any kind.) The soap will break the surface tension of the liquid.
Check out the simple fruit fly trap in action:
A few drops of dishwashing soap is added to some apple cider vinegar in a dish. An hour later, the fruit flies have landed around the rim of the bowl. Then, another hour later, the fruit flies have met their demise (not pictured). Simply toss the liquid (and dead fruit flies) down the drain and move on to enjoy your fruity treat.
This Cinderella transformation of discarded food is just one example of how marketplace experiments can help spur new growth markets. Venture capitalists are believers: Harvest Power has raised more than $350 million, making it one of the best-funded startups in New England.
And another bit:
Because food is an organic compound and readily biodegradable, one might assume that all this waste is not a major problem. However, consider this. Food takes resources to produce-water, land, fertilizer, energy. It’s heavy and expensive to transport. As food lies in a landfill, it decomposes and emits methane – a gas 25 times worse for climate change than carbon dioxide. Lastly and certainly not least, there is a high social cost.
BioCycle is not only the trusted trade journal of the organics recycling industry, but also hosts two conferences each year – one on each coast – that bring together experts, thought leaders, and innovators. These photos capture some of the scene from this year’s conference in San Diego.
CEO Chris Kasper, Lorraine Paskett, and Ashwani Kumar at Harvest’s booth
CEO Chris Kasper answering questions and connecting with industry experts
BioCycle Editor Nora Goldstein kicking off an educational session
David Hitchcock and Chris Kasper flash smiles
EcoSafe‘s signage for multifamily and educational facilities
This week Harvest is abuzz at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco. On Monday night, Harvest was named to the 2015 Cleantech 100; CEO Christian Kasper took the stage to accept the recognition. Then, on Tuesday afternoon he convenes with other leaders in the industry to discuss the circular economy and future opportunities. This is the sixth year in a row that Harvest Power has been recognized by the Cleantech Group for its contributions to the cleantech community.
The opportunities are endless: Cheese brine is being used in Wisconsin for snow and ice management. Tomato skins are being explored as car parts?! Elizabeth Matsangou of The New Economy explores the intersection of food waste and a low-carbon economy. Get the nitty gritty.