Contamination Removal and Reduction
Communities increasingly want their composting efforts to be highly visible across the communityand are rolling out universal recycling, composting and trash containers at all homes, businesses and public places. For many cities, this means expanding compost collection to include food scraps and compostable packaging from customersat the front-of-house (FOH) atfood service establishments. Composters have traditionally focused on collecting materials from staff kitchens, or back-of-house, because they offer higher volumes of food waste, less packaging and lower contamination.
As part of its Universal Zero Waste Ordinance, Boulder, Colorado required all businesses to provide both BOH and FOH composting service. There was much concern about the quality and the quantity of compost at FOH, and there was little data available to suggest how to make these programs successful.
Local non-profit organization, Eco-Cycle, with support from Boulder-based Eco-Products,conductedresearch to quantify how much additional food can be capturedfrom diners through front-of-house composting and to identify the collection systems and type of packaging that increased diversion and reduced contamination. Waste audits were conducted at 18 businesses across five categories, including full-service restaurants, quick serve restaurants, coffee shops, institutional cafeterias and grocery store delis. Changes to the collection system were made at ten locations and follow-up waste audits identified whether or not these changes improve diversion rates, material contamination and the amount of food waste captured.
The results demonstrate that food establishments of all types can achieve very high diversion rates. Bin locations and signage, as well as how many different types of packaging was used at each business, were prime factors in determining a location’s success.
The research also suggests that citiescan most effectively manage their outreach to food serviceestablishmentsby prioritizing certain sectorsbased on their community goals. Some sectors offer a greater opportunity to capture more food waste while others offer a greater opportunity to reduce contamination in composting and recycling programs.
This research represents a work in process andthe authors will share our methodology in the hope that it spurs othercommunitiesto conduct similar research and improve upon these findings.