Food Waste Challenge Saves Leftovers from Landfill
It might be easy to imagine designating a bottle or a newspaper for recycling or reuse – but food? That is the purview of former Mayor Bloomberg’s Food Waste Challenge. Over 100 New York City restaurants have made a commitment to divert at least 50% of their food waste. Of the diverted food waste, a quarter of it is reused: the leftover stir-fry or the day-old bread is sent to shelters and food pantries where it can feed the hungry. The remaining 75% of the food waste, containing things like banana peels and egg shells, is recycled: by composting the food waste, the nutrients can be used to grow more food instead of taking up space in a landfill. In the first six months of the successful program, these 100 restaurants were able to divert 2,500 tons of food waste, which already represent the city’s largest single stream of food waste diversion.
One common hurdle in making food donation programs successful is connecting the restaurants with food banks and non-profits that can pick up the food in a timely fashion. The city has partnered with MintScraps to develop cloud-based software that will allow restaurants to post leftover opportunities and those in need to capitalize on them. Hopefully, businesses will also save money by reducing their waste.
The Food Waste Challenge has gained momentum with support from private business like the Yankee Stadium, JetBlue, and InterContinental New York Barclay. City leaders have already passed the next ambitious step in food waste reduction, passing legislation that would require large commercial food waste producers to send their waste to a compost facility or anaerobic digester. Targeting the top 5% of waste producers would help divert 30% of the cities organic waste, or 250,000 tons annually.