Unpacking Food Waste

By Matt Brodeur, Green Business Fellow

Some quantity of spoiled and damaged foods are an unfortunate but inevitable part of supermarket and food manufacturing operations. Being able to keep these food products out of landfills has been a challenge given that many foods are sealed in packaging. However, BioCycle details how one Massachusetts company, E.L. Harvey & Sons Inc., invested in mechanical separation technology to remove packaging from food. E.L. Harvey received a grant through MassDEP’s Recycling Business Development Grant (RBDG) program which enabled them to purchase and install the separator.

Depackaging Food Waste

E.L. Harvey is a hauling company that handles trash, recycling, food waste, and construction and demolition debris. E.L. Harvey was a good candidate for depackaging equipment because they service numerous supermarkets and food manufacturers which dispose of packaged food products.

Because E.L. Harvey does not have a permit to process food and yard waste on site, they send their organics to anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities, compost sites, and animal feed partners.

The machine used by E.L. Harvey is called the Scott Turbo Separator and can remove packaging from food whether it is plastic film, cardboard, or plastic containers. Glass cannot be processed in the separator because the final product can contain too much broken glass to be acceptable for composters and AD facilities. E.L. Harvey doesn’t recycle any of the packaging that goes through the separator currently because it is contaminated by food and would take too much time, energy, and water to clean.

RecyclingWorks created a document listing all of the companies currently accepting packaged food materials in Massachusetts (updated November 2016). In addition to packaged food, RecyclingWorks created a guidance page for supermarkets which contains resources and case studies regarding common materials generated by the sector.

RecyclingWorks assists businesses and institutions with recycling and food waste reduction through composting and food donation. To speak to a recycling expert, call our hotline: (888) 254-5525 or email us at info@recyclingworksma.com.

Note: This post was modified from a RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts blog post. RecyclingWorks is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and delivered under contract to MassDEP by the Center for EcoTechnology (CET).

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