WLSSD ♥ Loves ♥ Our Food Service Industry

Ten claps for our region’s bustling food service industry!

The restaurants, cafeterias, and grocery stores that feed us also help WLSSD make top-notch compost.

WLSSD has a “beneficial reuse” ordinance that requires restaurants and institutions that produce a lot of pre-consumer (prep) scraps to put them to good use. This covers most any organic scraps that are produced in the kitchen, from potato peels to meat trimmings. It also covers prepared food that isn’t served to customers for whatever reason. If a buffet overestimates the appetite of the lunch crowd, they have a few options for managing the leftovers.

The best beneficial reuse for good food is feeding people! Many places send edible “extra” food to food banks or soup kitchens.

Sometimes, usually because of timing and food safety requirements, food-to-people just doesn’t work. Sending food waste to a licensed animal-feeding operation (in accordance with state animal health regulations) is another option, but these operations are pretty rare in our area.

For all the food that can’t be eaten, and all the scraps that aren’t appetizing in the first place, WLSSD operates our large-scale composting operation at 27th Avenue West.  Participating food service providers collect food scraps separate from the garbage, and waste haulers run special routes to pick it up.

Haulers deliver food scraps to our site. First, the load is dumped onto the tip pad and inspected. Our compost site operator is looking for items that will contaminate the finished compost. They include anything that can’t be broken down by the composting microorganisms.

The most common contaminants include trash like food packaging and recyclables like bottles and cans. Non-compostable, single use serving items sometimes show up too. We can only accept certified compostable paper plates, cups and tableware because we know they can be completely transformed into compost in the piles—no yucky plastic coatings left behind.

Most of the time, the site operator can pluck out visible contaminants, but occasionally a load is rejected. Its contents are sent to the landfill instead.

WLSSD depends upon our participating food service providers to keep the loads “clean”. They train staff regularly, post signs and organize their prep areas to accommodate beneficial reuse.

Together WLSSD and our food service partners turn more than 4,000 tons of local food scraps into premium compost each year. The benefits are huge. By composting organic waste rather than landfilling it, we are saving lots of landfill space. Most importantly, we avoid creating methane, the greenhouse gas that’s produced when organic wastes break down in a landfill.

WLSSD is grateful for all of our partners that help make a real and measurable difference right here in our community. “Thank you” to local managers that incorporate food scrap separation into staff training; to chefs and prep cooks and serving staff and dishwashers that all contribute; to grocery store managers and shelf stockers that work hard to get expired or unwanted food to the right place.

And for the rest of us enjoying the yummy fruits of their labors, let them know that you know they’re awesome for their waste-reducing efforts.