State recycling study shows promising results for food rescue, organics groups

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 - 12:00 am

A study by the state environmental agency shows encouraging trends for North Carolina’s efforts to divert wholesome, uneaten food from landfills so it can be used to feed the hungry.

The “N.C. Organics Recycling Study” revealed that last year 15,000 tons, of wholesome and perishable food was donated and fed to people.

Most of that food was donated by grocery stores, restaurants, catering companies, farmers, and other businesses to food rescue organizations that delivered the food to soup kitchens and shelters, said Jorge Montezuma, the Organics Recycling specialist who conducted the study.

“We hope this study can be used to encourage food service providers to donate wholesome food to food rescue organizations,” Montezuma said. “There’s a growing need to feed hungry people. Critical to that effort is finding ways to make sure wholesome food produced in excess is used for its original intent, to feed people, and does not end up in a landfill.”

Non-perishable food can also be used for many other purposes rather than sending it to landfills. For instance, the study found that 85,000 tons of food diverted from landfills in North Carolina went to animal feeding and composting operations as well as to an anaerobic digester business that converted the food into biogas to generate electricity. 

Data for the study was gathered from food rescue organizations and the state’s 52 composting facilities permitted by the N.C. Division of Waste Management to recycle food scraps, yard waste, grease from restaurants and other organic materials. The study revealed positive trends in the amount of organic materials recycled in North Carolina.

It found that municipalities, private organic material recycling businesses and colleges consistently recycled about 600,000 tons of materials each year between 2011 and 2015. The study also revealed increases in recycling of grease trap waste from restaurants.

The study suggests that organics recycling efforts will improve in North Carolina if there is increased collaboration between private recycling businesses and the state and local governments.

The report is on the agency’s website at: http://deq.nc.gov/conservation/recycling/composting/composting-resources.