After One Year, Mass. Commercial Food Waste Disposal Ban Gets Results

Leftover food is the single biggest component of landfill waste in Massachusetts. But in the past year, since the launch of the Mass. Commercial Food Waste Disposal Ban, the 54 businesses and other institutions helped by RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts have diverted approximately 5,020 tons of food scraps from landfills. That’s a five-fold increase over the prior 12 months’ diversion of 934 tons.

The ban, which came into force on October 1, 2014, applies to approximately 1,700 businesses and institutions that dispose of one ton or more of food waste each week.

RecyclingWorks, a program funded by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), helped many businesses and other organizations launch recycling and food waste diversion programs.

“The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is pleased to provide funding for the RecyclingWorks program to support Massachusetts’ businesses and institutions,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “With support from RecyclingWorks, Massachusetts businesses have been able to cost-effectively reduce disposal of food and divert it to higher value uses, such as food donation, animal feed, composting and renewable energy.”

According to Lorenzo Macaluso, director of Green Business Services at the Center for EcoTechnology, which manages RecyclingWorks, businesses and institutions used a variety of options to reduce and divert food waste from disposal. “Approaches included reducing the amount of food purchased and prepared, sending leftover food to food rescue organizations, and sending food scraps to composting facilities, anaerobic digesters, or farms to be used to feed livestock,” he said. “In the process, many of these organizations have been able to reduce their disposal costs and sometimes reduce purchasing costs as well.”

Food waste generators such as the Gardner Ale House, Lenox Hotel, and America’s Food Basket stores all worked with RecyclingWorks to set up food waste diversion programs during the year.

Boston-based compost hauler CERO Co-op worked with RecyclingWorks to get food waste generators in compliance with the ban, said CERO Business Manager Lor Holms. “We knew that technical assistance was available through RecyclingWorks and it was so great to be able to call the program and say ‘hey, we’ve got some new folks who are going to be affected by the ban, who want to work with us, and can you help us help them to get their store set up for this new way of handling the material.”

Lovin’ Spoonfuls, the Brookline-based food rescue organization, has also helped educate food generators about their options. “We’ve worked with MassDEP and the Massachusetts Food Association to educate businesses on their options for diverting food waste from the waste stream,” said Chief Operating Officer Lauren Palumbo. “Our role is to form partnerships with businesses looking to donate excess food in order to comply with the ban.”

RecyclingWorks works closely with businesses to use the waste reduction approach that makes the most sense for their business, said Macaluso. An analysis of the operation and waste materials usually results in a range of options that can be acted on.

“We often find that a business will start with one approach, say composting or animal feed and then they will also take additional steps like waste prevention or food donation,” he said. “When multiple approaches are used in concert, we find the most advantageous impacts from an environmental and cost-savings standpoint.”

Business owners who wish to learn more about diverting their food wastes or starting a composting program, or who wish to know if the ban applies to them, should contact RecyclingWorks at 888-254-5525.

About RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts

RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts, a program funded by MassDEP, helps businesses and institutions create successful food waste diversion programs and maximize recycling opportunities. RecyclingWorks provides all services at no cost to Massachusetts businesses and institutions and is focused on helping you prepare for the ban and get into compliance early. Recycling experts are available to help you navigate the requirements of the ban and to aid you in designing a successful, cost-effective food waste diversion program.

What can RecyclingWorks do for you?

  • Technical assistance tailored to your business needs

RecyclingWorks can evaluate your current system, help design a food waste diversion program that fits your needs, provide a cost analysis of available options, work with your current hauler, provide employee training and signage, and be available for any follow-up needed.

Note: RecyclingWorks is not a waste hauler, but we can help you work with your current hauler or recommend available organics hauling services in your area.

  • Troubleshooting and customer service

If you have any recycling or food waste questions or concerns, contact the RecyclingWorks Hotline at (888) 254-5525 or email info@recyclingworksma.com to reach our recycling experts at any time.

  • Resources and guidance

Our website features the “Find a Recycler” database, guidance on options for complying with the organics ban, case studies of successful programs, and updated information on waste bans.

If you need help at any point or would like to learn more about the RecyclingWorks program, please call our hotline at (888) 254-5525 or email info@recyclingworksma.com to reach a Recycling Expert.

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