SSO (Source Separated Organics) Superheroes Sweeping the Nation
August 27, 2012
In August 2012, the National Resources Defense Council issued a report which found that 40% of the food in the US ends up in a landfill. The complexities surrounding the supply chain dynamics, attitudes and norms that drive this wasteful equation demand further exploration. At the moment, Harvest can offer solution case studies for a sliver of the equation: food waste disposal.
Harvest showcases success stories about separating out organic waste and turning it into a resource. The people and businesses, these “Source Separated Organics (SSO) Superheroes,” hail from across the country in a spectrum of businesses, schools and communities. They work as organizational founders, entry-level employees and executives for nonprofit groups and for-profit companies alike. Their stories provide a glimpse of North America’s future: one where we serve as stewards of organic materials. With the recent publication of the NRDC report, the time feels ripe to revisit some of our favorite Superheroes from the past few years.
- Austin Resource Recovery (Texas) – This city wants to get to zero waste, so it is homing in on the municipal solid waste stream’s single largest component: organic materials. To encourage Austinites to utilize this valuable resource instead of wasting it, Austin Resource Recovery hosts composting workshops and offers a rebate for home composting systems. The City also plans to introduce a third cart system for curbside organics pickup.
- Flatbread Pizza (New England) – In the spirit of its mission of “providing both guests and employees a place to ‘renew their spirit,’” this pizza restaurant composts both pre- and post-consumer food scraps. Through a combination of recycling and composting, Flatbread diverts more than three quarters of its food waste from landfills!
- Greg Moore, Mayor of Port Coquitlam (British Columbia) – Moore has spent almost a decade making his town a blueprint for citywide organic waste management programs. A community of 55,000 just east of Vancouver, Port Coquitlam’s Green Cart program has become a model for other cities that want to maximize the value of organic materials and minimize costs by reducing garbage collection.
- SoilCycle (Massachusetts) – This innovative program to enable Somerville, Massachusetts residents to divert their food waste from the landfill was saved from abandonment by Metro Pedal Power, “Boston’s Human Powered Delivery Service.” Today customers have pickup options ranging from $25 to $50 per month and they receive compost (made from their very own food scraps!) for their gardens in return.
- Back to the Roots (California) – Two young men founded this awesome company right out of college: they grow gourmet mushrooms in used coffee ground collected from local cafes. Their business model diverted more than 1 million pounds of organic materials last year!
- TerraCycle (National) – TerraCycle, a company that produces “worm poop” fertilizer was also founded by a recent college grad. Not only does TerraCycle keep the food waste it feeds to worms out of landfills, its packaging (as well as other products) comes from recycled materials.
- BoLoCo (Massachusetts) – The Boston-based burrito chain is another champion for Source Separated Organics: The company diverts kitchen food scraps at all of its restaurants, and it has invested a great deal of resources and passion into front-of-the-house composting programs at certain locations. These efforts have earned BoLoCo a Green Restaurant Association 2-star certification.
- Harvard Medical School (Massachusetts) – In the fall of 2010 Harvard’s Office of Sustainability began to entertain the notion of a post-consumer SSO program at its on-campus cafes. The initiative turned out to be complicated and challenging, but with four different groups within HMS pitching in, it has been an early success and the school plans to expand the program.
If you are interested in this topic be sure to check out Jonathan Bloom’s video on food waste and food waste reduction. He was one of the reviewers of the report and one of the leading experts on the topic.
Thanks and congratulations to all of our SSO Superheroes. There will be plenty more to come.