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Upper Peninsula Restaurant Composting Project
Project Details

The City of Charleston was awarded a grant from SCDHEC for a food recovery pilot project in the Upper Peninsula’s EcoDistrict intended to divert restaurant food waste from being landfilled and direct it toward donation and composting instead.  The grant was written to cover costs associated with initiating food waste composting programs at restaurants, including:

  1. Providing “slim jim” compost bins (and recycling if needed) to fit each unique kitchen needs

  2. Training and educational materials

  3. Promotional and marketing materials

  4. Approximately 4-6 months of food waste collection service and exterior food waste collection cart

 

Pictures of the project can be found here: Restaurant Composting Album

Who Participated

All food and beverage establishments in the Upper Peninsula Initiative study area were invited to take part.

The following restaurants chose to participate:

  1. Butcher and Bee
  2. Cortaditos Cuban Café
  3. Edmund’s Oast
  4. Home Team BBQ
  5. Lewis BBQ
  6. Local 616
  7. Martha Lou’s Kitchen
  8. Nana’s Donuts
  9. Spero
  10. Taco Boy

Butcher & Bee and Taco Boy, proven leaders in sustainability, both had composting programs in place as we got started- these existing programs were expanded to capture more food waste with the help of this project.


Food Waste Hauler

We partnered with Smart Recycling as our contracted food waste hauler. Smart Recycling also managed employee trainings at each restaurant and consistently checked in with each restaurant during the pilot period to answer questions, provide additional trainings, and adjust service frequency as needed.

Smart Recycling hauled the food scraps to Charleston County’s Award Winning Compost Facility at Bees Ferry, and kept track of metrics from each restaurant so we could measure how much food waste was diverted  from our landfill.  Smart Recycling also offered us in-kind donations in the form of extra pickups to extend the program for the participating restaurants beyond what the grant funds allowed so they lasted 5.5 months!  We thank Smart Recycling for their valuable contributions to this project.


Why

Also known as an EcoDistrict, the Upper Peninsula Initiative has many related sustainability objectives all intended to guide responsible growth of the area.

Specifically, this project will address 4 of our objectives:

  1. Eliminate practices that produce waste wherever possible
  2. Inspire children to learn about the connection between land and food
  3. Encourage food recovery programs to donate extra food from restaurants to shelters and compost remaining scraps
  4. Capture greatest residual value of organic wastes (including food) through energy recovery and/or composting

Environmental Benefits. Food scraps occupy valuable space in the landfill and when buried in layers of garbage without ample oxygen, cannot decompose cleanly producing a harmful greenhouse gas, methane.  Instead, food scraps can be composted to create a nutrient rich soil amendment that area farmers can apply to replenish exhausted soils. Restaurants can complete the composting loop by purveying from local farmers.

Economic Benefits. The project aims to calculate how each restaurant’s garbage fees can be significantly reduced to more than offset an increased cost to hire a compost hauler. For example, a reduction in dumpster size and pickup frequency will not only lower private waste hauler fees but also the annual Charleston County Solid Waste User Fee of $172 per cubic yard of garbage.

Your business can reduce the user fee charged by the County’s Revenue Collections Department by participating in the County’s Food Waste Composting Program.


When
  1. (July 2016) Project began.
  2. (Aug.-Sept. 2016) Obtained interest from restaurants to participate and sought bids from compost haulers.
  3. (Oct. 2016) Conducted a Waste Assessment at each participating restaurant with City, County and compost hauler for a holistic review of current waste habits & recommended steps moving forward.
  4. (Nov. 2016) Ordered slim jim bins to fit each kitchen (compost and recycling, as needed).
  5. (Nov.-Dec. 2016) Training sessions held with restaurant staff and distributed slim jim bins, educational materials, and marketing materials.
  6. (Nov.-Dec. 2016) Began collecting food waste on site once training began (funds lasted 5.5 months)
  7. (Dec. 2016-May 2017) Ongoing metrics were recorded.
  8. (Dec. 2016-May 2017) Ongoing reassessment of quantity of bins, pickup schedule, training, marketing, as needed.
  9. (May 2017), funds for free hauling expired, each restaurant received:
    • Metrics of food waste diverted from landfill over duration of project
    • Estimated cost to continue composting on own
  10. (May-June 2017) Analyze metrics and results.
  11. (June 2017) Project concludes.

Project Results

Overall, the project was a great success!  63 tons of organic waste was diverted from the landfill to Charleston County's award winning compost facility at Bee's Ferry.  63 tons is roughly equivalent to 126,000 lbs or 630 full compost carts during the 5.5 month pilot project!

It is the hope all the pilot establishments have experienced firsthand the economic and environmental values in donating and composting and will choose to continue these actions on their own. It was ultimately up to the restaurant to decide what the right choice is for them and 6 Upper Peninsula restaurants chose to continue composting on their own, with 4 restaurants starting new hauling agreements as a result of this project.  

In addition, all participating restaurants received a Waste Assessment and were given strategies to streamline their waste and recycling procedures along with new recycling bins as needed.

Overall, the project brought greater awareness in our region about diverting food waste from our landfill and the results will be beneficial for other restaurants interested in obtaining readily available data about streamlining their waste.  

Final Results 


More Information and Resources

Participating restaurants received a folder at their “Waste Assessment” with lots of information to help get them started:

  1. Flyer: “General Information
  2. Flyer: “Food Donation Basics” which lists local shelters and provides information about the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act
  3. Window Decal “We Compost Our Food Scraps”
  4. Charleston County Recycling sticker
  5. Flyer: “Acceptable Food Waste Materials”
  6. Signage: 3 premade signs to label “Composting“, “Recycling” and “Garbage” receptacles
  7. Flyer: “Table to Farm”
  8. Flyer: “Recycle Right”
  9. Flyer: “Frequently Asked Questions about Charleston County’s Food Waste Program”

Resources:


Get Involved
You can help by supporting restaurants who choose to compost, recycle and demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability.

Look for the “We Compost Our Food Scraps” window decal at your favorite restaurants and let them know you appreciate their high level commitment to sustainability.


Contact Us
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Katie McKain at (843) 724-3789 or .