Sunday, May 1, 2011

Master Recycler/Composter class: managing food waste

Remember at the Sustainability Conference when organics recycling specialist John Jaimez drew a huge crowd? This night was no different. John got 50 minutes to infuse his students with organics knowledge, and he was happy to have that much time for a change (usually he gets about 20 minutes to tell everything there is to know about organics recycling).

Source-separated organics (SSO) is the largest segment of our trash with substantial untapped recycling potential.

Wayzata was the first city in Hennepin County to start SSO collection in late 2002 with 1,250 households. Organics collection went from 80 tons in 2003 to more than 10,500 tons in 2010. Eight haulers are collecting organics in the county.

There are now 120 schools and businesses collecting organics for recycling in Hennepin County. Schools are incredibly effective promotional platforms for organics. Often they provide residents with their first encounter with the idea of collecting food waste and food-soiled paper for recycling, and schools inspire people to start new programs.

After John came April, food rescue developer with Second Harvest Heartland, which collects unwanted food for people in need. SHH is now partnering with farmers markets and collecting 10,000 pounds of usable produce and food per week. They also partner with corporations such as Wal-Mart, Lunds/Byerly's, Cub, Kowalski's, Sam's Club and Target, which donate millions of pounds of food as well as volunteer hours.

SHH anticipates collecting 16 million pounds of food in 2011. Produce is the largest chunk of food collected, followed by meat. "If it looks good to eat, we'll take it," April said. And here's where John and April's presentations dovetailed: about 20 percent of what SHH takes in they can't use, so they want to be able to compost that material. Let's see if Hennepin County can't work with Second Harvest to compost their food waste.

Unfortunately I didn't stay for SET's presentation, but I wish I would've.

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