A Special Guest Post from Waste Management’s Eric Myers
This week is International Composting Awareness Week, and it’s the perfect time to reflect on how everyone – from families to major corporations – is taking composting more seriously. According to the EPA, North Americans generate more than 80 million tons of organic waste (food, yard and wood waste) each year, or one third of the total waste stream. And in the United States, approximately a third of municipal solid waste is organic.
This high volume of organic waste can be used as valuable material in lawn and garden supplements – and even renewable energy – through composting. Composting is one more example of how waste can be used as a valuable resource.
This week, we at Waste Management challenge you to get started composting, if you haven’t already. Earth911 offers some great tips for composting in your garden or even in the city. Consider yourself a composting guru? There are always ways to improve your family compost, including composting items you didn’t think were compostable.
According to Forrester research, 41 percent of consumers report an interest in or preference for purchasing from companies they perceive as “sustainable.” Some businesses have made the switch to composting due to this business advantage, and some are even incorporating such “Green” business practices due to customer demand. More and more restaurants, grocery stores and other companies in the food industry are beginning to explore innovations in composting each day.
One company who has launched a composting program, with help from Waste Management, is Whole Foods Market. This grocery store chain captures food and packaging wastes in eight of its Chicago-area stores, converting 80 percent of its waste into soil material for use in landscaping. These Whole Foods stores have recovered and repurposed more than 1,100 tons of food wastes to date, which means that they now divert approximately 90 percent of their waste from landfills.
The food service industry is not the only industry to take notice of composting. In fact, the green retail market, which includes organic composting, has been growing at a rate of 20 percent annually. Many companies, including Garick and Peninsula Compost Company, have emerged to profit from this growth in composting. Here at Waste Management, we’re also building our organic waste recovery facilities and investing in companies like Terrabon and Harvest Power.
Unlike traditional composting companies, Terrabon and Harvest Power are seeking to transform organic waste into renewable energy. This is an exciting new field of waste recovery and renewable energy, and we anticipate we’ll see more similar innovations in the future as companies and individuals continue to make composting a priority.
Eric Myers is director of operations for Waste Management’s Organic Recycling Solutions program.