The Benefits and Challenges of Food Service Composting Programs
By Heather Kolakowski Lecturer in Food and Beverage Management, School of Hotel Administration, Cornell University | May 2016
Co-authored by Christopher Gaulke, Lecturer in the School of Hotel Administration, Cornell University
Environmental sustainability and the desire to reduce the amount of food wasted are top trends in today's society. It has been reported that approximately one-third of hotel users consider the "green-ness" of potential service providers when making their purchasing decisions. Composting is one example of the types of "green" practices that customers such as these resonate with and when implemented into its operations can help to enhance the customers' perceptions of the organization. The following will detail the benefits and challenges of composting and composting programs as well as provide guidance on how to implement one into your operation.
What is Composting
According to the National Restaurant Association, environmental sustainability made the organization's list of top 20 trends for the sixth consecutive year in 2015, coming in at third. Food waste reduction and management, new to the list, ranked ninth. According to the NRA, "chefs and restaurateurs recognize more customers are incorporating sustainability practices into their daily lives and want to extend that into the food space as well particularly when dining out."
Approximately one-third of all the food that is produced is wasted or lost according to Carolyn Dimitri, the Director of the Food Studies PhD Program at New York University. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than 35 million tons of food waste was sent to landfills and incinerators in 2013 representing approximately 21 percent of discarded municipal waste.
Composting is one of several means of reducing the amount of food wasted both at home and when dining out. Composting provides an opportunity to turn foods such as plate scrapings, fruit and vegetable peelings, spoiled foods, etc., that are unusable or inedible for humans, into a nutrient rich product (compost) that can be used to fertilize crops, lawns, and gardens. Compost by definition is the material produced by the natural decay of organic materials, such as food scraps, leaves and animal products.