Wait. You Throw Your Leftovers In The Trash?

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Organic waste recycling is heating up. (Image: North American Initiative on Organic Waste Diversion and Processing)

Most people have heard about plastic bag bans, but what about organic waste bans?

Vermont is the first state to enact an organic waste ban. The goal is to prevent food waste being sent to landfills. In 2012, the state of Vermont passed the Universal Recycling Law, which slowly banned what goes into the regular waste bin. As of last month, the Universal Recycling Law is fully implemented. Instead of typical waste streams, residents have to choose to either compost their food waste, drop off the waste at a facility, or have it picked up.

What did the state of Vermont hope to see as a result of this legislation? A 50% reduction in waste being sent to the landfills by diverting it to facilities where it can be composted, recycled, or reused. More specifically, 20% of the state’s trash is food waste, which translates into 97,000 tons of food waste being composted per year. Here’s the catch — officials will not be able to enforce this, meaning that it will be a voluntary effort.

For perspective, 1.3 billion tons of food per year are wasted globally. This is equivalent of a third of all food produced. Not only is this a terrible use of resources, but food waste is also a source of methane.

Now, the state of Vermont only makes up 0.01% of global food waste, but other states are following. California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have also passed laws to keep food out of landfills. The fact of the matter is that any contribution to better optimize our resources and reduce emissions counts.

Vermont state officials have set aside about $970,000 dollars in grants to build infrastructure to support compost operations (facilities, curbside pick-up/drop-off, anaerobic digesters). Food donations have also grown by 40%.

Other states will likely follow, and so will the funding. This shift will accelerate innovation and competition in this market space. We will see technologies that support food supply chains and circular economy, like Apeel Sciences and Renewal Mill, as well as innovations to convert waste into energy, like SGH2 Energy and Brightmark.

This story has been featured in The Impact, an email newsletter that covers the latest news in the renewables and cleantech space. Check it out and subscribe here.

Impact Investment Analyst at One World | Startup Weekend Facilitator | Climate Tech Enthusiast

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