Recycle Anything Remaining
Key Action Area
Recycle Anything Remaining
Recycle Anything Remaining
Nearly 88% of surplus food is treated as true “waste,” meaning it is either left in the fields after harvest, incinerated, dumped, deposited in the sewer, sent to landfill, or applied to the land – but much of this could have been used for other purposes. In fact, recycling offers one of the largest opportunities for decreasing the amount of food going to waste in our food system.
"Recycling anything remaining" means capturing nutrients, energy, or other residual value by finding the highest and best use for any food or food scraps that remain. Solutions in this action area range from mature practices of feeding food scraps to livestock, to modern innovations such as insect farming. Solutions that make use of existing food for other creatures are preferable to the next category of recycling, which requires processes including composting, anaerobic digestion, and co-digestion at water treatment plants to break down the materials for their more basic nutrients. Alternatively, innovative markets for waste-derived bioplastics, agricultural inputs, and other industrial uses model the development of circular economies that can capitalize on existing wasted materials for new products, fuels, packaging materials, and more.
For the successful diversion of waste, policy has a key role to play by disincentivizing or banning food in landfills, a movement that has gained ground in an increasing number of states across the country. Commercial and Government Project Finance can effectively bolster solutions related to infrastructure developments, and combined can cover a majority of the funding needed. Public funding will be critical to incentivize business engagement in new operations and fund local collection programs. Lastly, philanthropic and private investments can be catalytic in bridging the gap for financing specific portions of projects (i.e. purchasing equipment) and investing in the research and scaling of emerging solutions.
Key Indicators (Annual)
Interventions which are either not clearly definable as a specific solution, such as incremental improvement of existing common processes, or solutions that have already been implemented by a sufficiently large number of stakeholders such that there is little additional opportunity for them to address food waste that is still happening in the U.S. today.
Enabling Technologies (e.g., depackaging and pre-treatment)
Investment in technologies within the waste recycling phase that can improve quality, consistency, and profit of the final biomaterial product (compost, digestate).
Separation & Measurement
Manual or technology-enabled tracking of waste streams (trash, recycling, and organic waste), and use of the information to adjust decision making and operational practices in order to maximize product use and minimize waste.
Relationships with Waste Haulers
Connections between food businesses and waste haulers that can be leveraged to streamline waste pickups, identify new opportunities for waste destinations if available, and expand conversations for data sharing and more.
Waste Audits by Waste Haulers
Repeatable investigation of waste materials gathered over a period of time to determine information about operational waste habits including the largest driver of food waste or the greatest volume of waste; some waste hauling contracts include at least two free waste audits on an annual basis.
- Public Funding Expands Waste Disposal Infrastructure - Project finance from both government and commercial sources can unlock the building of food waste-related infrastructure with high upfront costs. Given the difference in required returns, Commercial Project Finance seeks a profit motive and will finance solutions that lead to higher visible cash flows, such as anaerobic digesters (which have subsidies to make them economically viable) and composters. For the remaining solutions, which may provide a public good but are not as economically viable, Government-Sourced Project Finance will bridge the gap.
- Philanthropic Funding Bridges Financing Gap and Reduces Risk - Non-Government Grants and Impact-First Investments can help bridge gaps in financing (particularly for more regional operations) and reduce real or perceived risks to business adoption. A case for this is urban-based restaurants needing to purchase storage units and grinders in order to enable composting.
- Corporate Finance Increases Long-Term Sustainability through Investments in Disposal Solutions - Corporate Finance and Spending will provide a meaningful amount of the capital for these solutions through internally building capabilities or paying solution providers as they consider more sustainable methods of disposal.
Annual Investment Needed
Government Project Finance - $2.4B
Government Grants - $1.8B
Non-Government Grants - $186.6M
Impact-First Investments - $317.4M
Venture Capital - $91.7M
Private Equity - $76.1M
Corporate Finance & Spending- $752.3M
Commercial Project Finance - $1.7B
- Disincentivize, Limit, or Ban Food from Landfills – [State, Local; Legislative, Regulatory] Organic waste bans prohibit food waste from being sent to landfills, which in turn compels any business or other organization subject to the law (there are sometimes thresholds) to reduce their food waste. Organic waste bans are one of the most powerful ways to not only require recovery or recycling, but also incentivize preventative measures and food donations while also enabling measurement. Nine states currently have laws of this nature, as do several localities. Alternatively, while not as strong, increasing landfill tipping fees can achieve some of the same results by disincentivizing waste overall.
- Incentivize Implementation of State- and Local-Level Organic Waste Bans – [Federal; Legislative, Regulatory] For the first time, the Farm Bill of 2018 included a provision for the Federal Government to incentivize local-level organic waste bans and food waste reduction programs by offering funding to build infrastructure or implement food waste reduction plans. Congress could expand and provide more funding for this existing program, which was initially only a pilot, and make similar funding available to state-level applicants.
- Eliminate Restrictions and Barriers to Feeding of Food Scraps to Animals - [Federal, State; Legislative, Regulatory] Many restaurants, grocery stores, food manufacturers, and small and large farms have food scraps that are no longer edible for humans but are still safe and wholesome for animals. States could review and eliminate any overly stringent restrictions or bans on feeding food scraps to animals. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture or state agencies could issue guidance on feeding food scraps to animals.
- Increase Landfill Tipping Fees - [State, Local; Legislative, Regulatory] Landfills, both public and private, generally charge tipping fees to commercial waste producers who dispose of trash there. Factors that influence tipping fee rates include whether the landfill is public or private, availability of other revenue streams, location, disposal tonnage, and proximity to other landfills. Although tipping fees at individual landfills vary, a region’s mean tipping fee is highly correlated with the percentage of waste disposed of in the region’s landfills. By increasing landfill fees, state and local governments can incentivize businesses to donate surplus food rather than send it to the landfill.
- Provide Financial Support and Reduce Permitting Barriers for Food Waste Reduction Infrastructure - [Federal, State, Local; Legislative, Regulatory] State and local governments can break down barriers to food waste reduction by funding food recycling infrastructure, such as composting and anaerobic digestion. Funding can take the form of competitive grants, direct spending, or low interest financing. Furthermore, required permits from several disparate agencies can often present challenges for this infrastructure. States could take a dedicated look at streamlining this process.
- Separation and Measurement Training - Food businesses should emphasize the value of diverting food from landfill by creating protocols to regularly separate and measure waste streams, incentivize staff to track patterns of waste creation, and set goals for large scale change.
- Supply Chain Feedstock Coordination - Food businesses should implement data-enabled coordination and transparency platforms to consolidate feedstock inputs and create a consistent and reliable source for food waste recycling.
- Pre-Competitive Recycling Collaboration - Waste recycling organizations should strategically align shared industry knowledge to increase industry efficiency by leveraging financial support from grants and funders, encouraging infrastructure build-out, and streamlining recycling protocol standardization.
- Leverage Relationships - Food businesses should conduct outreach and education to other businesses and community organizations to pre-competitively build relationships with recycling organizations in an effort to provide consistent feedstock supply and demonstrate demand for investment in infrastructure.
- Smart Scales on Waste Trucks - “Smart meter” technologies in waste hauling need to be improved to give customers real-time measurement of waste quantities and enable new payment structures.
- Consolidated Organic Waste Feedstock - Technological, logistics, and contracting solutions are needed to address unpredictability and inconsistency of feedstock for composting and anaerobic digestion. Innovative contracts that de-risk investments and business-to-business platforms, such as shared waste transportation models, can create greater confidence in sourcing feedstock from food waste, generating demand for outputs and offering new revenue opportunities.
- Higher Energy Yields - Optimized anaerobic digestion and other bio-energy waste elimination solutions are needed to yield higher energy conversions and create greater profit potential.
- Distributed Models - Distributed models for composting and anaerobic digestion, such as digester units behind grocery stores, would minimize transportation and reliance on other players and waste sources.
Here's How You Can Reduce Food Waste
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