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The Rising Tide of Organics Recycling

The Rising Tide of Organics Recycling 

Organic waste is now viewed as a resource that needs to be put to the best and highest use.  

Plenty of cities and states have municipal and solid waste management plans, and it's a sign of the times that many of these are now branded as sustainable materials management plans. 

These plans often include sustainability and recycling goals, with a majority of cities and states hovering around a 50% diversion rate, and the only way to drive this up is to tap into organics recycling. 

"We've come a very long way in educating agencies, as well as legislators, about the benefits of organics recycling," explains Amy McCrae Kessler, Executive Vice President and founding member of Turning Earth LLC. Organics recycling is also moving higher up in the solid waste hierarchy. "Food waste is a major issue at the UN and EU, and if we are looking at climate change protocols we have to address it."

With many worldwide organizations embracing organic wastes solutions, many cities and businesses are looking to follow suit.

The Importance of Managing Organic Waste

Organic waste accounts for about 30% of the municipal solid waste stream, and right now only about 3-5% of that gets recycled. When food waste, garden and lawn clippings are left to decompose in a landfill, methane is released into the environment - a greenhouse gas that is 72 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. 

On the flip side, there is a huge environmental impact when organics are recycled. Recycled food waste can replenish the soil, displace fossil fuels by creating natural fertilizer, help retain water and fight storm runoff. 

Organic Waste Solutions

As organics recycling continues to rise in popularity, here are a few of the common options to divert food waste from the landfill. 

Donations

Grocery stores, bakeries and restaurants all send usable food items to the dumpster when about 13% of U.S. households are food insecure. Rather than throw away a less than perfect head of lettuce, donate it to a local food bank or charitable organization. They'll put it to good use and avoid the landfill. 

Food to Energy

If the scraps aren't edible, food waste can be used as a renewable source of energy. Instead of being dumped in a landfill, organics are taken to anaerobic digesters, where bacteria break down the food waste. The methane that is released is then captured and turned into multiple sources of energy, including electricity, heat and natural gas. 

On Turning Organic Waste Into Energy

According to the EPA, if even half of the organic waste created in the United States each year was put through anaerobic digestion to become energy, it would generate enough electricity to power more than 2.5 million homes. 

Composting

Even after anaerobic digestion, organic waste remains can be recycled and turned into compost. There are plenty of organizations and nonprofits that will take food scraps and lawn clippings to create compost that brings organic recycling full circle. 

Committing to an Organic Waste Recycling Program

When it comes to recycling food, Amy describes a hierarchy that "favors donation, animal  feed and organics recycling" as the most favorable to least favorable options for managing food waste. With such a valuable resource available, implementing and committing to an organic waste solution is better for the planet and your bottom line.