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  • Writer's pictureKat Nigro

Composting for Businesses: The Basics


Incorporating zero waste goals into your company's sustainability portfolio can have a significant impact on its overall environmental objectives.


While many businesses have already adopted recycling programs for materials like paper, plastic, metal, and glass, it's important to note that food and organic waste is often overlooked. Implementing composting practices in your workplace can be a powerful solution for reducing waste and mitigating your environmental impact.


Why should my business compost?


Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

As materials decompose in landfills, they release harmful greenhouse gasses such as methane and carbon dioxide and can leach harmful chemicals into surrounding soil and groundwater. Landfills are the third-largest source of anthropogenic methane emissions which are 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. However, by choosing to compost organic materials instead of disposing of them in landfills, you can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.


Reduce Waste

Composting greatly reduces the amount of waste that is sent to landfills. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food waste and yard trimmings make up about 28% of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream by weight. Depending on your industry or operating model, your waste reduction goals may differ from other businesses' goals.


For restaurants, grocery stores, and commercial food producers, composting can have a significant impact on company environmental goals due to the high volumes of organic material produced by these businesses.


Encourage a Positive Brand Image

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of the products and services they use, and are more likely to support businesses that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. By implementing composting programs, your business can enhance its brand image and attract environmentally conscious customers.


Inspire Employee Engagement

According to a recent study by IBM, 70 percent of employees believe that sustainability programs make employers more appealing, and 80 percent want to help their company reach climate goals. However, despite the increased emphasis on ESG goals by employers, slow progress in program implementation is leading to criticism of greenwashing.


Composting can be a great way to engage employees in environmental efforts and build a positive company culture. By implementing a composting program as part of a broad sustainability portfolio, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility and attract top talent that values considerate and thoughtful approaches to business practices.


Follow Regulatory Compliance

In some jurisdictions in the United States, businesses are required by law to recycle or compost a certain percentage of their waste. By implementing an organics recycling program, businesses can ensure they are in compliance with local regulations and avoid potential fines or penalties. New York, Massachusetts, Virginia and Connecticut are all states that have passed legislation around organic waste in recent years. You can use this tool by the US Composting Council to find organics legislation in your state.


Even if your state does not yet require composting or organic diversion by law, more municipalities across the country are moving towards local regulations. Starting a compost program now will be beneficial for your company when regulations are imposed since it will be already baked into the business operations and will reduce the need to quickly become compliant.


How can my business compost?


Your business has several options for composting food and organic waste, depending on your location and the amount of waste generated. Here are some common options:


On-Site Composting

On-site composting involves setting up a composting system at your business location where you can compost your own food and organic waste. This can range from DIY composting bins to more complex commercial or in-vessel systems. Grocery stores, campuses, and event centers may consider on-site or in-vessel commercial systems for condensing high volumes of pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste. With this approach, it's important to consider the need for ongoing maintenance and education, as these systems may require more time and effort.


Community Composting Programs

Some municipalities offer subsidized composting programs for businesses, where they provide collection bins and pick up food and organic waste for composting at a centralized compost facility. For example, Orange County, North Carolina has implemented a free business composting program for qualifying businesses in the county and have collectively diverted over 2.5 million pounds of compostables since 2018.


Partnerships

Your company may be able to partner with a nearby farm, community garden, or other organization to compost your food and organic waste. This can provide a local and cost-effective solution. It’s important to note that managing relationships and logistics can be a drawback to this approach, particularly if expectations are not clearly defined. Your company may need to invest time and resources to ensure the partnership program is successful.


Private Composting Services

In many cities, private companies provide services to collect food and organic waste and compost it at a commercial facility, so your business gets all the benefits of carbon and waste reduction without the hassle. If your business needs an easy, clean, and reliable solution, and you don't have time to manage a program, working with a service provider can be a great solution. In this article, we break down everything you should consider when trying to find a compost service provider for your business.


When selecting a composting option, it is important to consider factors such as cost, convenience, cleanliness, data tracking and transparency, and environmental impact. Your company should also ensure that any composting program or service provider is in compliance with local regulations and permits. Read more about finding a service provider here.


What can my business compost?


What your business can compost varies depending on your method of composting.

With most methods of composting like on-site and community gardens, it is safe to include the following:

  • Fruit and vegetables

  • Paper products

  • Leaves

  • Yard or grass trimmings

  • Egg shells

  • Coffee Grounds

  • Tea Leaves

If you’re composting with a service provider or compost facility operator, you can often compost a wider range of organic materials, including:

  • The items listed above

  • All food scraps including meat, dairy, and bones

  • Cooked foods

  • Oils and fats

  • Cardboard (including pizza boxes)

  • BPI Certified compostable plastics

  • BPI Certified compostable products like coffee cups and cutlery

  • BPI Certified compostable to-go food packaging

  • Bamboo or wood products


Conclusion


As a responsible and forward-thinking business, it's crucial to consider the holistic impact of your operations on the environment and to identify areas where you can make a positive difference. Composting and waste reduction can be a powerful tool in reducing your carbon footprint while simultaneously helping to nurture soil health and biodiversity.


To see examples of service options for businesses, or to inquire about services for your business, visit this page.

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