Ohio has been working to reclaim food scraps and reduce waste since the first Ohio Food Scraps Recovery Stakeholders Meeting in 2007, which was hosted by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). At that time, the main barrier to this organization’s efforts was the lack of composting facilities in Ohio that were accepting food scraps, and the long transportation distance they required. There were also issues of high transportation costs, operational concerns, lack of adequate equipment and technology, and inadequate regulations. In order to solve these issues and promote food recovery throughout the state, the stakeholders decided on a list of “next steps” which included the tasks of creating and nurturing partnerships, promoting projects and capitalizing on successes, developing training and educational resources, establishing regional and decentralized projects, updating regulations, and developing more technologies.
In 2010, there were 27 established composting facilities, five of which are colleges (Ohio University, Denison University, Kenyon College, Baldwin Wallace College, and Youngstown State). They were able to achieve success because of four main factors: the establishment of a regulatory framework which included state renewable energy requirements, fee exemptions for diverted organics, and streamlined permitting; incentives provided by funders such as the ODNR; the creation of networking opportunities; and because of the visionary stakeholders who pushed regional projects.
Because of this success, some of the larger cities decided they would like to implement city-wide composting initiatives – such as the food recovery initiative in Cleveland, Ohio. In partnership with the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, the city of Cleveland began composting everything but plastic, glass, and metal (which were recycled) at a number of local business, including Quicken Loans Arena and Great Lakes Brewing Company.
By April 10, 2010, all Cleveland sporting events locations (Browns Stadium, Progressive Field, and Quicken Loans Arena) were composting on a permanent basis. The venues began by tracking their kitchen waste daily, and managed to reduce their monthly food composted from an average of 3.5 tons down to an average of 1.5 tons. To calculate their reduced costs, they utilized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Food Waste Management Cost Calculator. Additionally, Quicken Loans Arena composted more than 30 tons of food in 2011. In order to help make composting at large venues such as these possible, the Ohio EPA and United States EPA Region 5 have produced a map which allows communities, businesses, and organizations throughout Ohio to find alternative solutions to landfills such as composting and anaerobic digestion facilities.
Cleveland’s city-wide food recovery initiatives have served as inspiration for other cities across the country, including those being undertaken in Santa Monica, California. Santa Monica’s Resource, Recovery, and Recycling Division (r3) has been making much progress into making the city more sustainable and aware of environmental issues caused by humans. One new initiative they offer is the collection of fats, oil, and grease (FOG) from city restaurants. If a restaurant wants to be involved they simply must call the Santa Monica r3 and they will be provided with a large container for FOG to be collected and picked up free of charge. The collected materials are turned into biofuel by their partner, GeoGreen Biofuels. Residents are also encouraged to collect their cooking fats, oil, and grease and drop it off at the City’s Household Hazardous Waste Center, free of charge as well. Additionally, Santa Monica, California, offers the option of food and yard compost pick up. Residents are able to buy a container from the city, or use one of their own, in which they collect all food waste and yard debris. These items are added to a city provided large curbside receptacle and picked up along with the trash and recycling receptacles. Santa Monica is pushing for city-wide zero-waste, and will hopefully serve as a model for other cities across the country.