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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Collaboration is Key to Success

In early October, the National Restaurant Association and the U.S. Composting Council announced their formal partnership.  Here is the official language from the press release:
The NRA and USCC are teaming up to raise awareness about food waste diversion, composting education, and other sustainable activities nationwide. The two organizations will share educational resources and identify collaborative opportunities that promote awareness of the role composting plays in waste reduction, improved soil and water quality.
NRA - USCC leadership at their
first meeting in December, 2011
Understanding the tremendous synergies, Elemental Impact orchestrated the introductory meeting between the two powerful trade associations in December, 2011.  The ZWA Blog post, NRA Leads Industry Collaboration, is an overview of the inaugural meeting that set the stage for the formal partnership between the trade associations for food waste generators and destinations.

As the trade association for the foodservice industry, a major commercial food waste generator, the NRA can mobilize the operators to source-separate food waste for diversion from landfill.  The USCC, trade association for composters and other permitted uses of food waste, is committed to building a strong food waste destination network. Challenge:  there are limited  permitted food waste options other than landfills in many communities.

commercial food waste at a
composting site
According to the U.S. EPA, an estimated 97.5% of the nation's food waste is landfill bound - a travesty for all concerned:  
  • Foodservice operators pay landfill tipping fees, generally higher than composting operation tipping fees.  Thus, detrimental to their bottom line
  • Higher transportation costs and toxic emissions as dumpsters and compactors are often pulled before capacity due to the decomposing food waste smell.
  • Methane gas is generated during food decomposition in the anaerobic conditions inherent within landfills.  Even with landfill methane gas recapture systems, a significant portion of the methane gas is released into the atmosphere.  Note methane gas is a 20 -25% more potent greenhouse gas than carbon.
  • Soil is the biggest loser as food waste is a value ingredient in the compost recipe.  Compost provides valuable nutrients to the microbial community responsible for creating healthy, well-structured soil vital to control erosion and produce naturally healthy food.
Together the two industry trade associations may create the policy platforms necessary to shift the regulatory environment to one supportive of compost and waste to energy options for commercial food waste. 

USCC executive director Michael Virga sums up the relationship in his quote "The USCC and NRA, two esteemed associations, are teaming up to share resources and promote our complementary objectives of diverting organic residuals away from disposal and into good use. These efforts will help NRA members improve their environmental bottom line while helping our members secure new sources of raw material for their compost manufacturing"

Agreeing, Scott DeFife - NRA executive vice-president policy and public affairs - adds "As local governments increase their efforts to manage their environments, composting organic residuals can significantly reduce landfill impacts while creating a healthier ecosystem. This partnership represents a win-win for our communities and the environment."

In addition to policy, food safety is paramount to developing sound, effective systems for commercial food waste.  The ZWA Blog post, Safety & Education: A Necessary Marriage, discusses how safety infiltrates the NRA and USCC  foundations. Important educational programs are destined to develop within the partnership.

Ei is honored to serve as the connecting force supporting the NRA - USCC partnership announcement.  Collaboration is key to success - Ei plays the role of bringing together the various organizations necessary to effect change.  


  1. The organics have to be captured immediately, in one can or bin and processed. One can means there are no extra costs involved in shipping, tip fees and processing. There is only one company with patented process which can accomplish this in 2,000 ton per day modules. See our website below.

    1. Barney, I just saw your comment - Ei does not permit advertising-oriented comments on our blogs. I am sending you this reply as a courtesy before I delete the comment tomorrow.

  2. Is meat processing products can be considered in a restaurant composting grand rapids mi program?

    1. In general, meat items are great for commercial composting operations where windrow temperature are high enough to kill pathogens - ALWAYS ask the composter what is accepted at their facility. There may reasons why the composter's recipe does not accept meat.