wheelbarrow for food waste drop-off

Food waste drop-off

If your community doesn’t offer curbside recycling for organic waste, you may still have options.

Every now and then, we receive inquiries from people looking for a food waste drop-off location.  They might be/represent homeowners, apartment-dwellers, schools, restaurants, manufacturing facilities with cafeterias, etc.

Like most of the country, they live in a city or county that may recycle yard waste. But there’s no municipally-sponsored curbside collection for other source-separated organics (SSO).

Yet these folks are willing to “go the distance” to drop off that food waste at a McGill facility. But our answer is always the same — sorry, but no can do.

We operate large, industrial facilities. Thundering tractor-trailer rigs and hulking front-end loaders are in constant motion. It wouldn’t be safe to open the gates to the general public.

But that doesn’t mean those food waste recycling supporters have no options.

Food waste drop-off and recycling ideas

Does a food waste composting operation serve the region? It may be possible to start recycling food waste without municipal curbside service.

Look for or create a cluster of amenable food waste generators. Think about condo complexes, business parks, downtown merchants. Any formal or informal group has potential.

Then, determine the volume of SSO that might be available for recycling.

A cubic yard of food waste weighs about half a ton. That’s equal to about 6 of those big, 96-gallon rollout carts (@ 180 lbs.) filled with food waste. Gather the equivalent of 445 carts to amass 40 tons — the smallest size for a McGill-hauled load.

McGill will transport less, but you’ll still pay the 40-ton minimum.  And all waste intake, including food, is subject to pre-approval and contract.

Keep in mind that McGill accepts all kinds of organic waste like:

  • Kitchen waste, including dairy, meats, and compostable plastics
  • Dirty paper and cardboard, like paper towels, pizza boxes, coffee filters, etc.
  • Yard waste

… which could help boost your group’s total organics tonnage.

You will need to identify a convenient location where a large roll-off box or trailer can park. Check with the local health department, too. Investigate permitting and pick-up frequency requirements (if any).

If you can’t meet the 40-ton minimum

Don’t become discouraged if your group falls short in the tonnage department. There may still be opportunities:

  • CITY/COUNTY DROP LOCATIONS. Some municipalities now offer food waste drop-off at their convenience centers. Contact your local government to see what’s available.
  • 3RD PARTY HAULERS. In lucky locales, third-party haulers provide door-to-door bin/cart collection. Then, they transport food waste to a municipal or commercial composting facility. These types of companies connect small-scale waste generators with composters. Learn more in this March 2019 article from Forbes.
  • COMMUNITY DROP LOCATIONS. Third-party haulers may also set up drop locations at farmers markets and other spots. Find out if these services are available in your community. Search online for “food waste recycling,” plus the name of your city. Or contact the local recycling coordinator.

Examples of food waste drop-off service programs: Richmond, Virginia, and Wake County, North Carolina.

When all else fails

Deed restrictions or wildlife may discourage outdoor composting at home or at work. But the general marketplace has opened the Great Indoors to composting, too.  Small units designed for composting food waste inside the house are now available.

But make sure the unit you choose is a true composter and not a glorified dehydrator.

Even if the gizmo calls itself a “composter,” read the description. Grinding and mixing is not composting.  The unit must meet specific time/temperature requirements to kill pathogens.

This is an essential feature if you want to compost animal proteins or pet waste. McGill facilities hold a blend for 3 days at or above 131 degrees F to kill pathogens.  But holding at 158 degrees F or higher for at least 30 minutes will pasteurize, too.

Read the US EPA 503 regs for more time/temperature possibilities.  The agency developed the original standards for treating sludge.  But a pathogen is a pathogen, no matter where it may lurk.  Compare these standards to the home unit’s capabilities before purchasing.

Also, strive to balance high-moisture material with dry. Keep the process aerobic. When the blend is too wet, anaerobic microbes can take over, and that’s what causes odors – indoors or out.

VIEWFood waste drop-off on SlideShare.