Did you know the United States leads the world in food waste? Every year in the U.S, the EPA estimates that approximately 31 percent (133 billion pounds) of the overall food supply is wasted. Instead of letting scraps go to waste, businesses have the opportunity to compost their organics to create nutrient-rich, healthy soil that businesses can use for their own agricultural purposes like animal feed or fertilizer, donate to another business, or recycle through composting.
More than that, composting is a great approach for businesses that are looking for a sustainable way to save valuable resources, divert more waste from landfill, and reduce waste costs overall. To give you the full run-down on composting, we’ve put together a guide that answers the most commonly asked composting questions and provides tips to help you get started right away.
Why Is Composting Important?
Currently, the U.S. wastes three times more food than in the 1960s. The EPA states that in 2017 alone, roughly 41 million tons of food waste was generated, with only 6.3 percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting. The benefits are clear: When materials are composted, they add nutrients and organic material back to soil, reduce our reliance on synthetic fertilizers, divert methane-producing organic material from landfill, and improve the soil’s water retention capacity.
If your business throws away a lot of food, you likely have large and heavy waste containers. Composting allows businesses to divert waste from these heavy containers, oftentimes reducing waste pickup frequency and ensuring you save a significant amount of money on waste costs.
Customer Success Story
RoadRunner Recycling worked with 21st Street Coffee and Tea to help them implement a compost program that would dramatically increase their landfill diversion rates and save the company money on its monthly waste bills. 21st Street Coffee and Tea explains, "We'd highly recommend RoadRunner to any small business that generates organic waste. We wanted to stop landfilling our organic coffee waste and RoadRunner implemented a program that composts ALL of our espresso pucks and coffee grounds, baby!"
How Composting WOrks
To ensure the cleanliness of the stream and to avoid contamination, please reference the below list to understand which materials can and cannot be composted. Click here for a downloadable version to share with your colleagues.
THE DEFINITIVE COMPOSTING LIST
Fruits, vegetables, meat & fish scraps, dairy products, bread, pasta, rice, grains, nut shells, egg shells, jellies, sauce & oils, coffee grounds, coffee filters, tea bags, leftover food
Produce stickers, plastic silverware, tin foil, rubber gloves, yard trimmings, plants, any synthetic or non-organic, materials
Frequently Asked Questions...
SHOULD I USE COMPOSTABLE BAGS FOR COLLECTING ITEMS?
Yes! They help prevent messes and make the process easier for you and the hauler.
DOES COMPOSTING ATTRACT PESTS?
There are steps you can take to avoid attracting pests. For example, avoid composting meats and oily foods. Also, place a lid on top of your bin to keep pests out.
IS COMPOSTING TIME CONSUMING?
Nope! Instead of throwing your scraps into your waste bin, you can toss them into your compost bin instead—there is no additional time required in this process.
WHAT ARE THE ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS OF COMPOSTING?
Composting is a natural way to provide nutrients to soil. It also reduces methane gas and the volume of waste in landfills.
HOW DO I CONTAIN THE SMELL?
If best practices are used, such as tying bags closed before they are filled and keeping the collection drum sealed, there should be very minimal odor except when bins are opened to be filled or emptied.
HOW LONG DOES COMPOSTING TAKE?
It can take anywhere from one month to two years depending on how well your compost pile is managed.
Tips For Starting a Successful Composting Program:
Place a list or image on your bin and/or on the wall above clearly outlining what materials can be composted. It encourages participation and helps avoid contamination by keeping the wrong materials out of your container!
Going over accepted materials, unaccepted materials, best practices, and composting benefits is a good way to garner employee buy-in that leads to success.
Place your compost bin closest to where the majority of your organics are produced, like in the kitchen or break room. This will make composting convenient and promote more participation.
You may want to elect a "Green Team" who is responsible for analyzing the success of the program, making suggested improvements, and encouraging employees to get involved.
Reflecting and tracking the success of your compost program arms you with information to keep employees motivated and allows you to assess any updates that could be made to improve your process!
Whether you are a restaurant that produces a lot of food waste, a university with many cafeterias, or an office space that is simply looking to divert waste from landfill—it’s likely your organization would greatly benefit from composting while also contributing to sustainability goals and a healthier environment.
At RoadRunner, our goal is to help businesses divert compostable materials away from landfill while reducing the cost of solid waste services. If your business currently composts, we'd love to hear how your program is going. And, if you don’t yet compost but are interested in learning how we can help launch a custom program for your business click below to get in touch!