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Issues Of The Environment: Managing Food Waste In Washtenaw County


Washtenaw County Solid Waste Program Specialist Noelle Bowman discusses where we are succeeding with food waste, and where we can improve.   

City of Ann Arbor Waste Sort Study– data revealed that 40% of MSW is food waste.

Food waste is a valuable resource that is not being optimally utilized when put in trash/sent to landfill. Alternately, composting food waste will take that resource to yield a product (compost) or biodigestion is used as an energy source. 

Current Food Waste Diversion Means Available in Washtenaw County:

Municipal and private large-scale compost (windrows [A2 City and Tuthill]), smaller scale vermiculture systems, backyard composting. No biodigestion occurring in Washtenaw County at this time. 

Current Food Waste Management Programs and Efforts in Washtenaw County:

The City of Ann Arbor is a leader in the County for food waste management. In 2014, the city expanded its residential curbside organics collection program to pilot a Food Scraps recovery program. Meaning…residents can put ALL plate scrapings [meat, dairy, bones] into the compost bin for curbside collection.  This program will continue to expand as the A2 City Council in May, 2015 allocated $100k for expansion of the existing organics management system. 

Special Events food waste:

MDEQP2 Grant – Washtenaw County Solid Waste Division, Recycle Ann Arbor and Amcor Rigid Plastics jointly submitted project proposal to provide zero waste resources for public events in Washtenaw County. Grant funding was approved.  

Many public events currently provide little to no disposal options for recycling, let alone food waste diversion, so we will provide disposal options for these 2 waste streams. The project goals include reaching 45,000 attendees at public events during the 2015-2017 project duration, and to provide food waste composting options. Officials will keep track of these metrics to establish how much food waste is being generated at these events and the impact of the waste diversion efforts. 

Washtenaw Food Policy Council: Action Items include developing policy around food and food packaging waste prevention and optimal management. 

Vermiculture: Food Business - Washtenaw Food Hub, Brinery – Starr Valley Farms installed and operates 2 vermiculture systems on the premises to process The Brinery’s food waste. Each system is able to process 500lbs per week, so between the two, 1000lbs per week of food waste are being diverted from the landfill.

Businesses who compost privately: Zingerman’s, Tuthill Farms

Hospitals: Farm at St. Joe’s composts their food waste generated at their 3 hoop houses

Schools: Case studies for food waste diversion. i.e. Eberwhite and Elementary (lunchroom…managed by second graders) 

Educational Resources

Washtenaw County Master Composter Program – held once per year, organized through Washtenaw County Solid Waste Division.  

Project Grow and and a group of experienced volunteers, provides education/training and resources to locals, to apply in homes, offices and other settings to use compost as means to divert food waste from landfill.

Many offices and small organizations compost throughout the County and there is growing desire of Washtenaw County–based organizations and businesses to divert food waste….for various reasons. The main missing link in the community is infrastructure….and more specifically community-wide service providers for food waste pick-up. 

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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