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:
Pictures of the project can be found: Restaurant Composting Album
All food and beverage establishments in the Upper Peninsula Initiative study area were invited to take part.
The following restaurants chose to participate:
Butcher and 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
Participating restaurants received a folder at their "Waste Assessment" with lots of information to help get them started:
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.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Katie McKain via email or at 843-724-3789.