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Spring 2013 Students, Tiana Taylor

San Diego businesses struggle to reduce food waste

By Tiana Taylor

Nearly 100 billion pounds of consumable food in the United States is thrown in the trash per year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. San Diego is one of the major cities within the U.S. that is contributing to this number. The city disposes more than 910,000 tons of trash per year, much of which is food that could be recycled. Corporations and residents in the region throw away foods that can be recycled in a manner that would reduce the number of waste that the city creates dramatically.

With the hefty number of waste being produced by the people of San Diego, the city faces the possibility of the landfills becoming over capacitated. According to the Environmental Services Department, the only city run landfill, Miramar Landfill, will reach capacity by 2022.

To help recycle some of the massive amounts of food being thrown away, San Diego’s Environmental Services Department has established a program at the landfill that turns food scraps into compost. The Miramar Greenery is a commercial food waste-recycling program that takes food scraps from companies and then processes the food into compost. This compost can later be purchased for yards and gardens.

The program is open to any business that qualifies. Businesses that are interested in participating must follow the city of San Diego’s step-by-step guide to become a participant.

 

waste diversionSteps businesses must take to qualify for recycling at Miramar Greenery

  1. Meet with city staff
  2. City staff provides technical assistance for on-site and logistics implementation
  3. City staff trains all kitchen, maintenance and administration employees
  4. Facility starts a “Pilot Program Phase” where facility’s representative is required to accompany City staff to inspect and evaluate the first three loads at the Miramar Greenery
  5. After successful completion of the Pilot Program Phase, facility becomes a regular participant of the program

The program has seen success within the participating businesses once these steps have been accomplished.

“The city has received a lot of positive feedback from the participants,” said Jose Ysea, an Environmental Services Department staff member.

Not only do these companies divert waste, they also receive benefits in participating such as a discounted tipping fee, meaning they are charged less for their trash disposal than the price they normally would incur. Ysea says that companies who participate also receive good PR for their business. Businesses can gain a good public image by participating in the program because they are helping the environment by putting their waste to good use.

 

Greenery is not as easy as it seems

From a business standpoint, however, the steps that it takes to dump food waste are time consuming and many do not know about the program.  The local sports bar and grill, Bridges, is not a participant in the program. The co-owner, Nathan Ford, was unaware that the city even offered this recycling program. Bridges is a fairly new business, opening its doors this past October. Ford showed interest in the opportunity to stay as eco-friendly as possible, but he wished he had known of the program before their grand opening. Ford said that with the constant demands of the restaurant the steps that are required take up time that he does not have.

Millions of pounds of edible food is being trashed daily by companies all over the county of San Diego. Many of these places do not realize that there are ways of reducing their waste. Miramar landfill is a city program that converts food waste into compost. The knowledge of this ecological friendly project is lacking amongst restaurant owners.

USD aims to become a ‘zero waste campus’

biohightechThere are a few businesses that have taken their own steps to waste prevention. The Office of Sustainability at the University of San Diego has set high goals for their future waste diversion. The college campus is striving to become a ‘zero waste campus’ by next fall according to administrative staff member at USD, Paula Morreale.

“We want to announce soon that we are working towards a zero waste campus,” Morreale said.

Morreale said that food waste on campus comprises 6o percent of their total waste. With the goal to become a zero waste campus, food waste prevention is on the top of their priority list.

“We are talking with Waste Management,” Morreale said, “and we are looking into sustainable, viable solutions that will either compost our food or turn food waste into energy.”

One way the campus is reducing waste is by their current waste technologies. Currently, USD is home to a BioHiTech Food Digester. This machine transforms food waste into water by using a specialized formula of micro-organisms to break down the food waste. USD transforms 3,200 pounds of food waste into water each week, according to the Office of Sustainability.

 

Feeding the hungry with leftovers

While most companies are not intending to go as far as USD’s initiative to be a zero waste corporation, many businesses prevent waste by donating their leftover food to homeless shelters.

Shelters, such as the San Diego Rescue Mission, depend on donations in order to feed the hungry in San Diego. According to the San Diego Food Bank, more than 446,000 people live below the poverty level in San Diego County. These individuals living below the poverty line face “food insecurity” which means that little or no food is available at home and they do not always know where they will find their next meal.

The Rescue Mission strives to help alleviate difficulties for the large number of food insecure people.  The Rescue Mission’s food services coordinator, Chandra McClellan, says they feed approximately 1,500 to 1,800 people per day.

McClellan says the mission will take leftover prepared food from any restaurant that shows interest and qualifies.

“As long as the food is in good condition and kept in the proper temperature then anything is okay,” McClellan says.

The San Diego Rescue Mission participates in a food recovery program that prevents food from being wasted. The organization picks up food that otherwise would be thrown away from companies county wide and prepares the food for the homeless and others in need.
IMG_4529

Food that has been salvaged by the San Diego Rescue Mission

McClellan says the Mission has never had an issue feeding everyone who comes to their door because they receive enough donations regularly. Any additional food, though, is always helpful to them and the other various organizations that are assisting the needy in the county of San Diego.

Many companies in the area have yet to partner up with local charities and many have not initiated a food waste recycling program. San Diego’s Environmental Services Department, though, has been working on new outreach programs and initiatives to stop the food waste and Ysea says the department is continually working on ways of reducing food waste locally.

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