Don’t Just Scrap It

Don’t Just Scrap It

What do you think of when you hear the word “scrap?”

Throw away those scraps of paper. Feed those scraps to the dogs. I can’t use this; just scrap it.

But when we talk about “scrap metal” the word takes on a whole different meaning.

Scrap metal literally is what’s left over. Old cars and appliances. Building materials from a construction site or a demolition site. Cast Iron.

But don’t throw this kind of scrap away, send it to a junkyard, or leave it lying around your business or home. It’s valuable.

For thousands of year, people have understood the benefits of scrap metals, turning their existing materials into new goods.

Have you ever wondered why the outside of Rome’s Colosseum looks like it’s covered with holes? The original construction of the Colosseum used iron clamps to hold the stones together. After the Fall of Rome, the metal became extremely valuable and people swiped it for their own purposes – using it in other structures or making weapons.

And, here in the U.S. during World War II, scrap drives were a popular way for everyone to contribute to the war effort. People collected unused or unwanted metal that could be used in building equipment to fight the war – and the drives also built morale.

WHY RECYCLE METAL
Like glass (M-PASS November, 2017), metal is a natural element, mined from the earth.  Over time the excavated land is depleted and the miners move to other areas looking for metals, taking a huge toll on the land.

Like other types of recycling, reusing metals affects our environment in a number of ways:

  • preserving natural resources
  • reducing emissions
  • and managing energy consumption

Recycling metal can also bring great economic benefits. Scrap metal recycling today is the basis for a powerful industry because it many metals can be recycled an infinite number of times with no degradation of its properties. And it’s an industry that provides jobs.

According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI), “The scrap recycling industry connects the ends of the manufacturing supply chain. It has evolved in response to changing market dynamics and represents a key component in creating a circular economy.” ISRI’s 2018 Recycling Industry Yearbook follows that statement with this chart:

2017 Volume of Scrap Material Processed in the United States (metric tons)

Iron and Steel 66,000,000
Aluminum 5,268,000
Copper 1862,000
Lead 1056,000
Zinc 67,000
Paper 46,100,000
Plastics 815,000 (2016)
Electronics 5 million + (est)
Tires (# of tires) 110,000,000 (2016)

ALL SCRAP IS NOT EQUAL
To gain the optimum environmental and economic benefits of recycling scrap, you need to know your metals. In case we’ve all forgotten our geology, metals are classified as ferrous or non-ferrous; both types have been used by humans since ancient times. And if you’re not sure which you have, a good old-timey magnet will identify the ferrous materials.

Ferrous metals are combinations of iron with carbon. Some common ferrous metals include carbon steel, alloy steel, wrought iron, and cast iron.

Non-ferrous metals include aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, and tin. Precious metals are non-ferrous. The most common precious metals include gold, platinum, silver, and palladium.

In “The Basics of Recycling Scrap Metal for Money,” Earth 911 ranks the value of the materials:
Copper $$$$
Brass $$
Stainless Steel $$
Aluminum $$

Copper has always been valuable and was the first metal to be forged or melted into jewelry and other decorative objects. Copper’s value today is due to its importance in many products that affect our daily lives, such as power cables and plumbing tubes.

And on the lower end, although scrap aluminum isn’t worth a lot of money, it can be recycled and used again within a few months. The recycling process saves 80% of the energy that was used to make it.

ECONOMICS OF SCRAP METAL
Scrap prices are subject to many of the same market forces as primary commodities and can experience similar price volatility. The main factors determining scrap price are international and domestic markets and supply and demand.

Copper continues to have the highest value, as evidenced in the increasing number of copper thefts over the last few years. For example, in an October 2012 article, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported “Arrests made in copper wire theft ring,” when six people were arrested for stealing wire hanging from AT&T telephone poles and selling it directly to metal recyclers. More recently – in December of last year – street lights went out at an intersection in Kansas City, Missouri, because thieves had stolen the copper wiring from the lights.

The scrap market has become increasingly globalized, partly as a function of better transportation and technological systems, as well as a greater recognition world-wide of the benefits of using scrap commodities due to limited natural resources. As it has become more global, it has made positive contribution to the U.S. balance of trade, with major exports to China, Canada, Mexico, and Turkey, among other countries.

China remains a huge influencer in scrap market prices, as it has in many parts of our business over the last few years. Added to existing U.S.-China trade tension, it’s been difficult to predict how the market will perform this year.

Robin Wiener, ISRI President summed it up this way in an interview with Recycling Today late last year: “China has been the major source of overseas demand for U.S. nonferrous scrap. As a result, China’s import restrictions are having outsized impacts on a range of nonferrous scrap commodities. For example, U.S. exports of copper and copper alloy scrap to mainland China during January to July 2018 were down 41 percent as compared to the first seven months of 2017. The corresponding figure for aluminum scrap is a 26 percent decrease.”

OUTLOOK
Even with these variables, analysts are predicting a growth in the global scrap metal recycling market. ResearchandMarkets.com released the “Global Scrap Metal Recycling Market 2018-2022” report in late 2018. Their findings predict that the global scrap metal recycling market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.16% from 2018-2022.

The report continues: “… one of the major drivers for this market is the rise in role of metal recycling in key industries. Recycling has witnessed increased importance in key industries such as healthcare and automotive.”  But it also cautions:  “The uncertainly in trade of steel and aluminum among the leading countries will affect the global scrap metal recycling market during our forecast period.”

Global Market Insights analysts expect that continuing strong consumer demand and intense production in the sector will continue, powered by the increasing use of scrap metals for economic viability and energy conservation.

Copper continues to hold its value and even with China’s import restrictions, the outlook for copper demand is bright for 2019, as demand is expected to outpace supply.

On the other hand, the aluminum scrap market is not as optimistic. Due in part to oversupply, while aluminum scrap is moving, it is not moving at a rate or price that most scrap dealers find satisfactory. The imbalance between supply and demand has pulled pricing lower, and spreads have widened.

In case this hasn’t already caused your head to spin, these two headlines about the ferrous market from different issues of Recycling Today define the meaning of the word “volatility”:

January 11, 2019: “Ferrous scrap loses value in January trading”
March 21, 2019: “RMDAS (Raw Material Data Aggregation) prices show ferrous
market rebound Mill buying price transactions show $20 per ton gains for nearly
all grades in all regions.”

YOU DON’T HAVE TO FIGURE THIS OUT ON YOUR OWN
Fortunately, there are resources that can guide us through what may seem like a complicated process.

The ISRI issues a Weekly Market Report which tracks prices and other commodity news.
And, of course, there’s an app for that: the iScrap App allows you to keep up with prices and other industry news on your phone.

Or we can help. If you don’t have a magnet handy to determine if you scrap metal is ferrous or non-ferrous, or if you want to simplify the whole process, M-PASS Environmental can help you sort it out. M-PASS’s Lorraine White: “We manage a large volume of scrap metal across the United States and are able to leverage outstanding scrap metal pricing for our clients. We understand the scrap metal industry and therefore, provide above average rebate programs to our customers.”
For more information:

Bureau of International Recycling

ISRI Industry Recycling Yearbook 2018
This annual publication by ISRI, “the voice of the recycling industry,” provides an in-depth look at all areas of scrap recycling.

Recycling International “Scrap News”
“Unveiling recycled metal industry trends with respect to the metal landscape: escalating demand for scrap metal processing to augment the industry expansion over 2018-2024”

December 2018 report from Global Market Insights

We Believe…

The Children Are Our Future

It’s hard to believe that we’re already in the second month of 2019 and trying to remember what New Year’s resolutions we made this year. There’s still time to re-visit them and maybe make a few others. We’re hoping the younger generation will have greater success in keeping theirs.

Global Recycling Day 2019

New Year’s resolutions aren’t always a sure thing, but let’s make this one last. Youth and education are at the center of the second Global Recycling Day’s 2019 theme “Recycling into the Future.” This year’s program centers on the power of youth, education, and innovation in ensuring a brighter future for the planet. Looking ahead to the March 18th event, the Global Recycling Foundation is asking children across the world to make better recycling practices one of their 2019 New Year’s resolutions.

Read more about Seven Recycling Promises to Become a Global Recycling Citizen here.

Read more about the Global Recycling Foundation here.

There are also some great ideas and inspiration for children and their families this year.

I Want To Be Recycled

Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council are partnering on the “I Want To Be Recycled” public service advertising (PSA) and awareness campaign. The bi-lingual, multi-media campaign illustrates that an individual can “Give Your Garbage Another Life.” The website has lots of information and the “Super Sorter” game.

Read more about I Want to Be Recycled here.

Ryan’s Recycling

Ryan Hickman was about four years old when he accompanied his dad to their local recycling center and cashed in a few cans and bottles. That was the turning point for this young man who today, at age nine, heads his own company – Ryan’s Recycling. Ryan started in his Orange County, California, neighborhood and his efforts soon expanded to people in the town of San Juan and his county. Ryan is passionate for recycling, and works to keep the cans and bottles from reaching the ocean and harming the environment.

Since he began, Ryan has recycled nearly half a million cans and bottles. About three years ago, the company started selling tee shirts and Ryan donates the money to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center – over $8,000 in two and a half years.

Read more about Ryan’s Recycling here.

 Really Get Back to Nature — Go Hiking On a New (Reclaimed) Trail

Greenville, South Carolina’s Lake Conestee Nature Park is connecting its 12-mile trail network to the nearby site of a former municipal landfill, providing a connection between Lake Conestee and several service roads on the former landfill property and will ultimately lead to a series of one-way trails with observation points. The 100-acre landfill, closed by the city of Greenville in 1995, is one of the tens of thousands of closed municipal landfills in the United States. The city will constantly monitor levels of contamination and signs will mark safe/unsafe areas.

Read more about the transformation here.

Read more about the Lake Conestee Nature Area here.

And if the New Year involves some closet-cleaning (or if you’re a follower of Marie Kondo) …

Crayola Markers

While the entire marker is not recyclable, it’s possible to recycle the plastic marker barrel after removing the tip and the reservoir.  The marker caps can be recycled at recycling facilities that accept #5 plastic.

But if you have drawers or cabinets full of old markers (or if, like me, you don’t want to sit there and take them apart), Crayola has developed a process to convert markers to energy — a “ … process that repurposes the entire marker, regardless of the different kinds of plastic or how they are assembled ….” And Crayola has partnered with K-12 schools across North America in ColorCycle, an initiative to encourage collecting used markers that will be repurposed by the company.

Not only do they take back used markers, you can find lesson plans and other information about the program on their website. (ColorCycle)  They’ve added a couple of financial inducements – FedEx Ground picks up the markers and Crayola pays for the shipping. And until March 2, 2019, they are offering a discount on online orders with the code: RECYCLE.

Lego

This popular company has a different problem with petroleum-based plastics – they’re the product, not the packaging. But last year Lego announced that they are joining other companies looking to reduce plastic waste. Their goal is to build its toys entirely from plant-based or recycled materials by 2030.

An article in the August, 2018, New York Times, reported “Lego Wants to Completely Remake Its Toy Bricks (Without Anyone Noticing)”. Lego already uses plant-based materials in flexible parts of a small percentage of their products. A team of researchers is working on ways to make changes in their product while keeping it the same Lego the world has loved since the 1950s.

Legos are one of the things that can easily be reused (in Stuff!, the December, 2018, M-PASS blog we highlight reuse). They can be passed along to younger children in your family or your neighborhood; or you can donate them to a school, nursery, or secondhand shop. 

For a local perspective, we talked to 12-year-old Talia Camp to get her thoughts on recycling. At this 6th grader’s school, she and her peers work together to educate others about recycling. When asked if she talks with her school friends about recycling and the environment, Talia said, “Yes, all the time. I stay on them at lunch to put the cans in the single recycling bin we currently have at the school.” Talia’s biggest worry is for our oceans and wildlife: “It concerns me to think animals are living in and consuming our trash. We are contaminating what we eat.”

M-PASS will fill your company’s or organization’s needs to contribute to a more sustainable world. You can, in turn, take it home (if you haven’t already).

 

2019 – What’s Ahead

What's Going On With.....

As we head into 2019, M-PASS is keeping an eye on important issues for the recycling industry – including important topics from 2018 which will continue to be in the news and new trends and ideas the industry will be looking at this year.

WHAT’S GOING ON WITH …

Glass

Glass recycling continues to be a difficult issue, though work to improve efforts to recycle.  Glass also continues. 

Some key findings from the Glass Recycling Coalition’s 2018 Glass Recycling Survey:

  • Expectations of consumers and residents to be able to recycle glass decreased slightly (3%).
  • Concern about glass recycling decreased by 14 percent among public-sector respondents, while concern increased among glass industry respondents by 14 percent. Both sectors identified cost-effectiveness as a top concern.
  • Respondents care what happens to recycled glass.

 

China

During 2018 China continued increasing its ban and restrictions on recyclables.

Waste Dive reports that China has announced plans to restrict imports of eight different scrap categories – including aluminum, steel and copper – starting July 1. According to the Bureau of International Recycling, these materials previously were on the “unrestricted” materials list, but will be subject to restrictions and government approval under the new regulations.  These actions move China closer to its goal to eliminate solid waste imports by 2020, according to Recycling International.

Food Waste

Organic recycling is expected to increase in 2019, driven by legislation and consumers’ demands for increased sustainability.  On December 20th, the President signed the Agriculture Improvement of Act of 2018. The Farm Bill includes eight new provisions and programs to reduce food waste, including pilot funding to support state and local composting and food waste reduction plans in 10 states, creation of a Food Loss and Waste Liaison position within the USDA, and clarification and expansion of liability protections for food donations. These provisions reflect longstanding recommendations of Farm Bill Law Enterprise (FBLE) member, Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic

And sustainability is listed as one of Food Dive’s “6 Trends to Impact the Food Industry in 2019

No Surprise: Already a climate change leader, California takes on food waste

Technology

Entering 2019, industry experts predict that the use of smart technology will continue to grow, as the industry works to clean up recycling streams, improve safety, strengthen operations and create new job opportunities.

Industry Experts Provide 2018 Highlights, 2019 Predictions 

Scrap Metal

The scrap marketplace has become increasingly global in recent decades and the United States is the largest exporter of recycled commodities in the world – exports of all scrap commodities from the United States increased to nearly 38 million tons last year.

2018 Recycling Industry Scrapbook The industry anticipates continued growth in 2019, providing jobs and increased economic activity.               

Political and Legislative

In addition to national legislation like the 2018 Farm Bill, states and cities are also taking action.

Starting January 1, 2019, New York City stores and foodservice businesses can no longer offer, sell or possess single-use foam food containers, such as foam takeout clamshells, cups, plates, bowls and trays. And manufacturers and stores may no longer sell or offer for sale packing peanuts or other loose-fill packaging in the city.

DSNY: Foam Ban for Businesses Begins

Hennepin County, Minnesota (Minneapolis) enacted revisions to its recycling ordinance in 2018. The biggest change requires companies generating large quantities of food waste —restaurants, grocery stores and hotels — to implement organics recycling by January 1, 2020.

Plastic items continue to disappear as Boston enacts a plastic-bag ban, California became the first state to ban plastic straws (unless requested at dine-in restaurants) and Los Angeles goes a step further with an effort to completely ban plastic straws in local restaurants by 2021.

RECYCLING ECONOMICS

For the first time since late 2015, Montgomery (AL) is getting ready to open its recycling facility. Through a partnership with Repower South, the city will ramp up machinery to fine tune the addition of more than $10 million in equipment to the existing $37 million facility before running all of the city’s trash through the building sometime in January.

In December BioHiTech Global, Inc., a technology and services company that provides cost-effective and sustainable waste management solutions, announced it had completed the acquisition of an additional 26.8% ownership stake in the nation’s first HEBioT™ renewable resource recovery facility located in Martinsburg, West Virginia, making it the largest owner of the facility. This facility is expected to generate $7 million of annual high margin revenue beginning in 2019, utilizing a patented high efficiency mechanical and biological treatment process for the disposal and recycling of mixed municipal solid waste into an EPA approved solid recovered fuel.  The HEBioT Process is expected to divert from landfills as much as 80% of the waste that enters the facility.

 In November, the Northeast Recycling Council released a list of 17 North American paper mills that have announced an increase in their capacity to process recycled paper. The list includes 15 in the U.S. and two in Mexico, and includes new mills as well as mills adding recycled fiber capacity or converting what they process.

 The Circular Economy

Introduced by researchers in 1976 the term “circular economy” is increasingly heard in the recycling industry, as business and organizations are working to develop and implement solutions to landfill diversion and focus on sustainable package design, waste reduction, and  the concept of reuse and upcycle.

Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce promotes change in their Sustainability and Circular Program. This program states that the linear economy approach of extracting natural resources from the ground , made into products, used, and thrown away has proved to be highly successful in delivering economic development in past years. It acknowledges, however, that global trends indicate that the ability of this traditional model to produce economic growth is being increasingly challenged, requiring search for alternative approaches that can work in the long term. As a result of our throwaway society, natural resources are being depleted at an accelerating rate, and the ecosystems upon which business and society depend on are being degraded or destroyed.”

CLOSER TO HOME

According to Gloria Hardegree, the Georgia Recycling Coalition is “…taking a What’s your Focus for 2019 approach based on some of the main topics that came out of the Resource Recycling conference last fall.”

Here are some ideas

  • Zeroing in on a clean stream and how to lessen contamination;
  • Glass recycling: fact vs. fiction.
  • Broken glass is accepted for recycling;
  • Glass has not been hit by China’s policies
  • There are strong end markets for glass
  • Labels and organics present no problem for recycling glass
  • Demand for glass is about 11 million tons per year in the U.S.
  • By the numbers: Metrics and data have been growing topics of focus in the industry; Stay Tuned: GRC is working with the state to adopt the Municipal Measurement Program launching in early 2019—a collaboration of Re-TRAC and the Recycling Partnership. It will be free for local governments and replace our Measure GA program.
  • More organics/composting growth/infrastructure: with the national wasted food reduction goals, efforts are ramping up at the Community Based Compost level as well as small scale site opening and large scale manufacturing sites in the works. This area is starting to gain traction in Georgia.

Source: Georgia Recycles newsletter, Fall 2018

A bit of irony illustrates that we can’t stop working …

No More Plastic was written Martin Dorey and released in 2018. The English author is an environmental advocate who says he worked with the printer “to make it one of the most environmentally friendly books of the year.” So you can imagine how he felt when the book’s distributor shrink-wrapped the book. Dorey told the BBC: We’re sleep-walking into oblivion with plastic and we need to change everything from the bottom up.

Remember that wherever 2019 takes you and your business, M-PASS is here, adapting to anticipated changes in our industry.

 

ADD TO YOUR CALENDAR

Global Recycling Day, March 18th

Earth Day, April 22nd

America Recycles Day, November 15th

 

 

CONFERENCES

February 24 – 25, 2019. Southeast Recycling Conference & Trade Show, Orlando FL. For more information, visit http://www.southeastrecycling.com.

 

May 6 – 9, 2019. Waste Expo, Las Vegas NV. For information, visit http://www.wasteexpo.com/we17/Public/Enter.aspx.

 

11th World Congress and Expo on Recycling

June 13-14, 2019 Edinburgh, Scotland

Theme: Recycling: Creating a Sustainable World

 

2nd Global Summit on Recycling and Waste Management

THEME: RECYCLE MORE, WASTE LESS: A PLEDGE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Date: July 22-23, 2019

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Stuff!

'Tis the season to REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, REPAIR, REPURPOSE, REGIFT

Many of us have collected so much stuff that a movie was made about it. The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard’s 2007 online documentary explored our problem with stuff:  we have too much of it, too much of it is toxic and we don’t share it very well..

We live in a throw-away society and in a way it’s not our fault. It can cost more to repair a printer than to just buy a new one. And every year, there’s a new gadget we can be convinced we need. But how many folks (like me) have a box full of old electronics hidden under the stairs waiting for the next “electronic recycling day” which I will then forget.

 In fact, it seems like the word “repair” has almost disappeared from our vocabulary. When was the last time you heard about a TV repair service? The New York Times profiled Jennings TV Service, a small family-owned shop in Manhattan in the 2005 story “Practicing the Dying Art of TV Repair.”  Repair vs. replace is an ongoing debate.

Discover Financial Services lists

5 Questions to Ask before Repairing or Replacing an Appliance” on its website:

  1. How much will the repair cost?
  2. How old is the appliance? (how old is too old)
  3. Do you need a more energy-efficient appliance?
  4. Could better maintenance extend the life of your appliance?
  5. Are you a stickler for style?

These questions may help but the decision usually comes down to money. According to HouseLogic, a website of the National Association of Realtors, repair may be better if the cost to repair is less than 50 percent of the cost of a new one (including installation and other related charges).

Old things can have new life through repurposing. There are lots of resources about repurposing, like this Popular Mechanics article “22 Ingenious Ways to Repurpose Old Junk.” Among the ideas – turning an old wheelbarrow into an herb garden and turning old tire rims (a large item in landfills) into a fire pit.

A well-thought-out repurposed item can add to your home or make a nice “green” gift. And it helps cut down on STUFF.

All this STUFF becomes even more evident as the holidays approach. Over the next few weeks the U.S. Postal Service anticipates delivering more than 15 billion pieces of mail, including 850 million packages and according to Hallmark, 1.3 billion holiday cards are sent every year.

Our industry is keenly aware of the far-reaching effects of the season. The aftermath of holiday consumerism begins to hit the waste and recycling industry in November. Waste and recycling volumes trend upwards, peaking during the two weeks following Christmas, according to Waste 360

                                                                          

M-PASS wanted to see what we could find to suggest as alternatives to the usual holiday habits.

CHRISTMAS TREES

Cut trees or artificial? On the one hand, fake trees can have a big carbon footprint. A few years back, The New York Times reported that a fake tree would have to be used over 20 times to be greener than decorating a cut tree each year. But on the other hand, we’re removing a lot of trees from our land.

While most places have successful programs for recycling Christmas trees (Keep Georgia Beautiful’s “Bring One for the Chipper”), there are new alternatives. In California The Living Christmas Co. rents live trees, taking them back at the end of the season. The trees travel in their own soil and are easy to move, and if cared for properly will be ready to go into action again the following year. If you become attached to your tree, you can tag it and have the same tree in future years, though it may be bigger. If trees become too large or unsuitable to rent, they are donated to tree-planting projects.

GIFT-GIVING

Regifting is not a new concept but it is only now getting respect. There are pages of information online, including thoughts from both Emily Post and Martha Stewart. Emily advises to only do it in specific and appropriate cases while Martha has a more open view.

There are even official rules for throwing a Regifting Party. Guests bring and leave with one gift each; no first-time gifts are allowed. We’ll skip the specifics but just say that there is some swapping, a little stealing, and a lot of laughing. If you don’t love what you end up with, you can donate it to charity.

And finally, if you just can’t ignore that shopping urge, shop locally and try to find “green” gifts for those on your list. Even amazon.com has a section for eco-friendly gifts (other gift ideas and links to other resources can be found below).

Just Little Changes, whose goal is to inspire people to start with small daily changes, shows us the possibilities in their “Ethical Hierarchy of Gift Purchasing.” Things we do make a difference every day and little changes add up to big changes.

We hope some of these ideas will enable you to have a less stressful holiday season.

“So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run.”

–Henry David Thoreau

For more information

Other gift ideas

  • A charitable donation in someone’s name
  • An “experience,” such as a composting class, wine tasting, or walking tour. You can even choose a specific city using Xperience Days which offers activities in a number of U.S. cities (including Atlanta).
  • A membership for an art museum or children’s museum
  • Give the kids a chance to play in the dirt with a gardening kit. It’s fun and also educational – and there could be vegetables or flowers at the end.
  • Homemade gifts like hand-knitted scarves, candles, mason jar lid coasters (links to some of these resources are at the end).

.

 

Food For Thought

Food Loss, Food Waste

 

We first raised the issue of food waste here around the end of June. The article presented a lot of the reasons why, according to a 2016 article in The Atlantic, America leads the way in food waste because “calories are cheap and people are picky.”

What Can We Do to Reduce Food Waste?

“Ideally, we must make the term “food waste” obsolete.  Food at all stages of preparation and consumption should be captured for the next use and never thrown away.”                                                                 Susan Kidd, Director of Sustainability, Agnes Scott College

First, we can become smarter consumers – whether shopping at the market or dining out – and focus more on buying and ordering amounts we actually need. Since most of us don’t have the chance to go to a farmer’s market more than once a week, it has been easy – and necessary – to get into the habit of going to the supermarket weekly and stocking up. But plans can change and suddenly you’re going out to dinner several nights, abandoning your meal planning. (And don’t, like me, fall for every two-for-one deal the store offers).

The other primary way to better deal with leftover food is to increase the amount of organic waste we compost. It may seem like it should be an easy thing to recycle organic waste into compost – it’s an all-natural process after all. If you want to know more specifics about the science of composting, the UGA Extension program has a publication with all the details about why composting food waste is so important and how composting works. Guess the number one reason they mention it? Because otherwise it goes to landfills. Organic recycling saves resources, by reducing need for fertilizer and pesticides; reduces methane from landfills; and returns nutrients to the soil, improving soil health and conserving water

But on the contrary, it’s a complicated issue and has to be managed well. Some of the major challenges facing commercial composting and anaerobic digestion are:

  • equipment costs (The building and operation of anaerobic digestion plants are costly with a long return on investment);
  • increased transportation costs;
  • lack of availability of locations willing to allow organic composting (cost again – the margins are slim on food waste recycling);
  • potentially complicated permitting processes along with competition from relatively inexpensive landfill tipping fees . (We often see challenging permitting processes, though through changes in the rules in Georgia, the process today is less complicated in our state).

While there are numerous challenges, there are also lots of people, businesses, and organizations working on solutions. Since every day there seems to be some new bit of news, we’re going to give you some of the highlights:

  • The 2018 U.S. Food Waste Summit in Cambridge, Massachusetts had its largest attendance since the event began at the Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic (HFLPC) in 2016. Co-hosted by ReFed, a multi-stakeholder nonprofit collaboration of the nation’s leading business, nonprofit, foundation, and government leaders committed to reducing U.S. food waste. ReFED has identified 27 of the best opportunities to reduce food waste.
  • Apeel Science, featured in CNBC’s 6th annual Disruptor list of companies whose innovations are changing the world, has developed an all-natural and edible substance that, when applied to the outside of harvested fruits and vegetables, creates an invisible shield that can double their lifespan without refrigeration. Apeel’s founder and CEO James Rogers put together funding from corporations and foundations and applied his background in material engineering to develop the system. The company’s first products are Apeel Avocado and Apeel Citrus.
  • Government Actions

As discussed in the first part of our story, the USDA is active in a number of efforts. In addition, as national conversations  on food waste expand, the EPA and USDA have developed a variety of resources including The EPA’s ongoing Food Recovery Challenge and U.S. Food Loss and Waste Champions 2030 programs, along with the USDA’s Foodkeeper app to help with food storage and planning.

  • Consumer Interest

As clients and customers of the food service and restaurant industry become more aware of, and committed to, sustainability issues, the “reputational value” of lowering and diverting wasted food becomes more important.

This past April, Waste 360 which provides information, events, and education to the solid waste, recycling, organics and sustainable communities, held the 50th annual WasteExpo Las Vegas. After the event, local Los Vegas Livestock collected nearly 4,000 pounds of food scraps which were processed and fed to livestock within 24 hours of collection.

WasteExpo discussions offered three key areas to watch in the national organics conversation

  1. Packaging Philosophy
  2. Infrastructure & Investment:
  3. Policy Moves, at the state and local levels of government as well as market-driving policy changes at some large corporations.

Closer To Home …

Georgia took a leading role in working to standardize permitting processes in 2006 through a coalition of public and private stakeholders including the Georgia Recycling Coalition; ERTH Products; Atlanta Recycles; Emory University; University of Georgia Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department; and The Coca-Cola Company. Funding for these programs came through a Resource Conservation Challenge grant awarded to Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division by the U.S. EPA. The state Department of Natural Resources Board adopted the revised compost rule in May, 2014. And in 2018, compost operation rules were amended to remove certain volume restrictions resulting in the ability of smaller sites to scale up and accept more material feedstocks.

Like many other places in the country, the cost of organic waste diversion is an issue for Georgia businesses. At the moment we have plentiful landfill space and fairly low landfill costs, as we discussed earlier this year the article “Waste Reduction and Diversion in the South.”

Today, Georgia does have five sites with designated and permitted composting capabilities – two are government-run and three are privately owned – which is great news. Even with these sites, though, businesses can face increased costs due to the need to transport the material over long distances.

In January of this year, the U.S. Composting Council held its annual conference in Atlanta for the first time in twenty-five years. This meeting gave local government, private, and nonprofit representatives an important place on the agenda along with experts from around the country. Highlights of the conference agenda included opening keynote speakers Georgia gardener Joe Lamp’l, Host and Executive Producer of the PBS series Growing a Greener World, and Scott Jenkins, General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Georgia – and the Atlanta area in particular – have the chance to bring continued change to organic recycling through the leadership of many key organizations that are stepping up to try to make this happen.

Other innovators in the state include the Georgia Recycling Coalition and Food Well Alliance. In 2017 with the support of an EPA grant, these two groups created The Atlanta Community-Based Composting Council to increase community-based compost production which benefits Metro Atlanta’s urban farmers and community gardeners. Also with the Georgia Recycling Coalition and other stakeholders including the City of Atlanta’s Office of Resilience, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and leading urban growers and social enterprises, Food Well Alliance published a white paper, Closing the Loop: Food Waste in Atlanta in June 2017. This is a huge step forward on the community level, but it’s just that – a step.

M-PASS continues to work toward finding new solutions to organic recycling and to enhance the services we currently provide. M-PASS’s Lorraine White said, “Food waste recycling has been an issue in Atlanta for years. We have to keep working on local solutions, because it’s our experience that companies in Atlanta want to recycle – if there’s an affordable way to do it.”

“As we increase community based and large-scale compost manufacturing in Georgia, the goals are to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions, nourish depleted soils, conserve water and grow healthy food for our citizens. Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Healthy People will become the mantra of our future.”

–Gloria Hardegree, the Georgia Recycling Coalition

Other tools and tips

EPA’s Food Too Good to Waste

USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov

On the Save the Food website you can fine

  • The guest-imator, a tool that does the dinner planning for you. Just tell it who’s coming and what’s for dinner to find out how much to make.
  • The Handpick App which takes any combo of ingredients left in your fridge and helps you find recipes to use them up.

 

 

The Clean Plate Club

The Clean Plate Club

Let's Talk About Food Waste

Remember “The Clean Plate Club”? Turns out it wasn’t just something parents made up to admonish kids about not eating all the food on their plates. Its history goes back to 1917 when Herbert Hoover, America’s first Food Administrator, proclaimed “food will win the war.” That campaign ended after the First World War, but in 1947 the “Clean Plate” theme returned. (source: Time magazine)

Since America had become strong agriculturally while parts of Europe were struggling to survive, the U.S. instituted a campaign called “The Gospel of the Clean Plate: Don’t Waste Any Food.” Thousands of women volunteers went through their communities asking neighbors to sign a food pledge. Fourteen million families displayed this sign in their windows to show they supported the campaign. (source: The Great War, PBS).

So, food waste is not a new issue. It was important in early 20th century America and it’s back as an important concern today.

Reports are constantly being released with data and statistics on food waste. They may vary a little depending on the source but the thing they all have in common is that the numbers are huge. According to recent data compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and published in the journal PLOS ONE, Americans throw away approximately 150,000 tons of food a day adding up to $160 billion in food waste per year. And thirty million acres of cropland are used to produce this food that’s not eaten.

According to the Food Waste Alliance, it’s estimated that 25-40 percent of the food that is grown, processed and transported in the United States will never be consumed. Where does it go? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more food reaches landfills than other types of municipal solid waste.

These numbers are especially troubling since one in eight Americans is defined as “food insecure,” meaning that at some point they have difficulty feeding their family. And the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO) reports that 800 million people worldwide are considered chronically hungry.

Obviously, food waste is not just an environmental issue – it has serious social and economic implications as well.

How did we get here? As a 2016 article in The Atlantic put it, America leads the way in food waste because “calories are cheap and people are picky.” But the great American squandering of produce appears to be a cultural dynamic as well, continues Atlantic writer Adam Chandler. We have developed an obsession with the aesthetic quality of food and will not buy (or we buy and throw out) anything that looks bruised or a bit wilted. But it’s not all our fault as consumers. Often grocers won’t even put fresh produce on their shelves if it looks the least bit ugly. Fresh fruits and vegetables account for 39% of food waste, followed by dairy (17%), meat and mixed meat dishes (14%), and grains and grain mixed dishes (12%).

One example of ways people are developing to counter this waste is Imperfect Produce, a San Francisco company which promises to deliver ugly, healthy and delicious produce at a 30% savings over grocery store prices. And it’s catching on: When Imperfect Produce entered the Seattle market, their goal was to sign up 300 households by the end of the year. Instead, more than 2,000 signed up within four weeks. (“Seattle’s love affair with ugly fruits and veggies,” Seattle Times, January 6, 2018).

But individual shoppers and diners alone don’t make up these numbers:

  • The average amount of purchased food that is wasted in a full-service restaurant is 11.3 percent.
  • Nearly 85 percent of all food waste happens in homes or consumer-facing businesses, such as restaurants, retail grocers and institution cafeterias.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 23, 2017

Where do we stand locally?  We’re better than some. According to “The United States of Financial Waste,” a recent survey of 2,000 households conducted by professional resources site Hloom, Georgia ranks about in the middle in percentages of which states waste the most groceries and restaurant meals

Last fall, food waste was one of the topics on the agenda for the 2017 Chefs Collaborative Summit held in Atlanta. The Chefs Collaborative is a national nonprofit whose mission is “to inspire, educate and celebrate chefs and food professionals building a better food system.” Their goal is for sustainable practices to become second nature for all chefs in this country. As part of this conference, local chef Steven Satterfield held a workshop where a group of the chefs “talked trash.”

And some hunger relief organizations in the Atlanta area are creating partnerships to reduce food waste and make more food available to the folks in need in our communities. The Atlanta Community Food Bank, one of the largest hunger-relief groups in the Southeast, recently established a partnership with Second Helpings Atlanta. The collaboration with Second Helpings Atlanta, a nonprofit food rescue organization, will allow the Food Bank to expand its efforts to reduce food waste in Metro Atlanta and get more food to local people in need. These two groups will continue to work together to identify new food recovery opportunities and test, refine, and implement new programs to reduce food waste – and hunger – in Atlanta.

Food Waste today is about more than a clean plate – when we waste food we also are wasting other important resources – water, labor, food, money, and valuable crop land.

Hopefully, you’re asking yourself now what else we can do – individually and as businesses – to help in the effort to reduce food waste.

Watch this space for news on what we can do to improve food and organics recycling.

Spoiler alert … there will be talk of commercial composting and anaerobic digesters/

Read More About It …

Articles on food waste are showing up in publications from Forbes to the Huffington Post, to the Washington Post, to WasteDive, to the Atlantic. We’ve included some of the things we’re reading:

Additional Resources …