Got food waste?

Got food waste?  We’ll take it. 

Here’s what you need to do to get ready for food waste composting 

(Also view WE WORK FOR FOOD WASTE on SlideShare) 

Not every composting facility is using a technology with the oomph to take on the full range of biodegradables common to food waste.  McGill is one of a handful across the county that will accept it all. 

McGill accepts food waste, including dairy and meats.  We take certified-compostable cups and other serviceware, too.   Dirty napkins and pizza boxes, paperboard/cardboard, broken pallets  – toss it all into that container bound for a McGill composting facility. 

But there are a few things you need to do before jumping feet first into organics diversion. 

  • Composting generally costs less than landfilling.  Look around for any and all biodegradable wastes that can go to composting along with that food waste.  
  • Get a handle on total generation volumes of biodegradables.  You can’t get a quote, plan for storage or make meaningful forward progress until weekly or annual generation rates are determined.  Our Estimating volumes for composting SlideShare title can get you started on either a DIY or professional waste audit. 
  • Get a quote for composting services based on the total compostables volume. 
  • Figure out how you’re going to separate the compostables from the other recyclables (plastic bottles, aluminum cans, etc.) and trash.  The composting stream has to be “clean.” That means no non-compostables.  Contamination makes the compost unsalable.  Because the ability to derive revenue from compost sales is one reason composters can offer lower tipping fees, intake customers (like you) are the beneficiaries of diligent source-separation.   
  • Identify vendors for compostable serviceware and other products.  Determine costs to switch to an all-compostable food service environment.  Going all-compostable will eliminate most common contaminants, scratch the need for multiple trash and recycling receptacles in food service areas, reduce the cost of penalties for contaminated loads, and make enforcement of separation policies so much easier.    
  • Develop a collection, separation, and storage strategy. 
  • Confirm all assumptions, develop and finalize the project budget. 
  • Develop and initiate a training and enforcement program for participants, whether they be employees, customers, or residents. 

If you’re in a region served by a McGill composting facility: 

  • McGill will haul your food waste and other compostables if you generate enough to fill a big roll-off container or tractor-trailer load every few days.  Some health departments may have rules governing the required frequency of food waste collection.  Check with yours.  Regardless of local rules, you don’t want food waste sitting around for long periods of time.  If you are a low-volume generator, contact a third-party hauler who specializes in bin and cart collection.  Your public works department or local/state recycling coordinator may be able to give you some names.   
  • One cubic yard of food waste weighs about half a ton.  Our minimum load requirement is 40 tons.  We’ll haul smaller loads, but you’ll be charged the 40-ton minimum.  That’s why it may pay for you to look around for other organics to toss into the composting bin along with the food waste. 
  • If you want to haul yourself, take a look at McGill’s requirements for vehicles and drivers. 
  • To find out if there’s a McGill facility near you, find our locations here. 
  • Here’s how to contact us. 

If you’re not in a region served by a McGill composting facility: 

To find a composter in your area, contact state and local recycling coordinators or solid waste divisions.  There are also searchable directories online, like Find a Composter. 

Confirm what these operations will or will not accept, then base your waste audit and separation strategy planning on those findings. 

To compost it yourself: 

For high volume generators,  McGill offers package plants beginning at 35,000 tons per year throughput.  

But for low volume generators with sufficient space and people-power, on-site composting may be an option, offering the resulting compost for sale or giveaway to customers, employees, or the broader community. 

If exploring this route, do yourself a big favor and eliminate open-air composting as a consideration.  The last thing any company needs is negative PR from an outdoor compost pile gone wrong.  Opt for some kind of enclosed or in-vessel system, like those offered by Green Mountain Technologies.   

Also know that composting beyond the backyard requires professional management.  It may also require state or local permits.  For program stability and to ensure both paperwork and process are done right, even a small community food waste project relying on volunteers for the bulk of the labor force should consider putting a paid, trained, and certified specialist in charge of the composting operation.