Food Waste and Recovery-Initial Survey Results

Objective: Describe food waste and recovery options in Blaine County

Methods: interviews with stakeholders

Outcomes: Clear Creek provides curbside trash and recycling – plastics #1-5, metal cans and mixed paper excluding corrugated cardboard, and they are piloting food waste recovery on a commercial scale. Winn’s Composting is the only composter in Blaine County that is state certified. There are individuals who collect grease and turn it into bio-fuel. Grocery stores employ several diverting options – giving to employees, food banks, as well as community members who voluntarily pick it up and use it for composting or livestock feed. Blaine County Schools send food waste to Winn’s Composting, and employ a “share table” where unused food is placed and students can take items from the table if they are still hungry. Blaine County is managed as part of a Solid Waste District, which includes eight counties, but we also have our own rules regarding waste management.

Food-Waste_low1Some of the barriers that our interviewees encountered are revenue and prohibitively high start-up costs (one interviewee cites $800K for the first two years of a composting operation). A County Commissioner states that the County would be very supportive of expanding food waste recovery programs, though they do not have the financial resources to do this solely on their own. Opportunity exists to work with a contractor to lease lands, and look at other financial incentives. Time and water rights were other major barriers – groundwater rights present a huge hurdle to obtain, and they have limits on how much water you can use, depending on your permit. Additionally, it often takes a lot of time and skill to convert waste into bio fuel or other high value outputs, and the product yield may be low compared to the time invested.

Despite barriers, the Commissioners were excited about the prospect of expanding methods of food waste recovery, and would like to work with people to help lease land and secure the necessary requirements to set up a food waste recovery operation. Schools and grocery stores have been committed to diverting food waste to higher value use, and Clear Creek and Winn’s Composting have been working together to maximize food waste removal and composting. Food waste recovery from food production will be explored on our food production page.