A decade ago recycling was all about plastic and aluminum. Times have changed.

Today, recycling includes making use of cardboard, wax cardboard, paper products, yard waste, wood waste and food waste. Organic matter is valuable and can easily be diverted from landfills.

Norcross, Ga.-based Greenco Environmental collects food waste, yard waste and wood waste from companies in the southeastern United States to create a high-quality compost. More than 27 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW) in Georgia's landfills is composed of organic waste that can be reused and turned into organic compost. Of that 27 percent, 44 percent is comprised of food waste, and 17 percent is yard and wood waste.

“It's incredible the amount of viable waste being dumped into landfills unnecessarily,” says Tim Lesko, president and founder of Greenco. “Most commercial food waste, yard waste and wood waste generators don't even realize that their residuals can be diverted and reused for relatively the same price it costs them to send it to a landfill.”

Food Waste

Both pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste generated by food processing manufacturers, hospitals, supermarkets, restaurants, universities and feed industries can be turned into organic compost and reused.

According to Lesko, education, training and employee responsibility are essential to making an organics recycling program work for all parties. Restaurants, for example, often are working with limited space and have little room for a new waste bin or extra step in their disposal process. Greenco's training team observes the employees prior to setting up a program in order to customize the waste separation and collection to make it as easy as possible.

Pre-consumer food waste is the easiest source of compostable material. This material waste is generally already separated from the rest of the waste stream and has not been contaminated. Using post-consumer food waste (table scraps from restaurants, hospitals and universities) can be more challenging because of separation issues.

“In many cases, our new customers will be going from absolutely zero recycling to trying to recycle everything they can,” Lesko says. “That's a big change and can be a little bit painful at first. We believe it's our responsibility to communicate with the team, make their program easy and efficient, while helping them see the value of their effort. In truth, many of these employees have been recycling at home and are pleased that their workplace is doing the same.”

Keeping food waste separated is essential to any composter. Quality control through vigilant inspection, high standards in training and implementation ensure the creation of a high-quality soil amendment product.