Solid Waste Working Group Update: Focus on Food Waste

April 6, 2023
The Solid Waste Working Group (SWWG) met on March 31st. The meeting featured three presentations about food waste diversion initiatives.
University of NH presented on their composting program in Durham, NH. Food waste from campus cafeterias and bedding from their equine program is combined to create compost for use on UNH farm fields. To reduce contamination, UNH has food services staff, rather than students and faculty, separate food scraps in campus cafeterias.
Elm City Compost Initiative, a residential compost collection service in Keene, NH, presented from their perspective. Specifically, the owner shared three ideas for how New Hampshire could support more food waste diversion: (1) provide incentives for businesses to divert food waste; (2) advertise food waste diversion options at local transfer stations; and (3) provide financial support for purchasing equipment for composting operations, such as a tractor.
Waste Management (WM) presented on their CORe (Centralized Organic Recycling process) in Charleston, MA. This facility takes organic material - including food waste - from commercial, industrial, and municipal sources. CORe can handle up to 25% contamination, as WM has machinery to remove packaging and other contaminants. By comparison, composting requires significantly lower contamination levels. The end product goes to a wastewater treatment facility to generate biogas for electricity production. The following video provides more details.
These three initiatives are on target for one of the broader goals of the SWWG: the recommendation to increase food waste diversion (or decrease the amount of food waste ending up in the landfill.) In the SWWG's initial report, it specifies that efforts to reduce and divert waste should focus on high-volume and weight materials. 
A recent article from the New Hampshire Bulletin highlights the need for a change to how the state handles food waste. In the current legislative session, the SWWG Chair, Representative Karen Ebel, introduced two bills that would support the state in working toward improving food waste diversion. From the article:

House Bill 300 would address food waste, which, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates, makes up about a quarter of municipal solid waste (MSW) landfilled nationwide. 

The bill would require any entity producing more than 1 ton of food waste per week to keep that waste out of the landfill if certain qualifying facilities exist within a 20-mile radius of where the waste was produced. These facilities include food banks, composting centers, and farms that feed food waste to animals. 

HB 300 was introduced alongside companion House Bill 462, which would provide $2 million for programs to help keep food waste out of landfills.

For additional information on Food Waste Diversion resources for individuals and communities, check out our Food & Yard Scraps Services page.