Americans generate more than 250 million tons of landfill waste annually, which averages almost 5 pounds per person per day![i] About 60% of landfill waste is recyclable. Additionally, 20-30% of landfill waste is yard and food waste, which can be diverted from landfill.[ii] Given this tremendous opportunity to reduce what gets buried in the landfill, three Nashville organizations decided to take action. They changed how they dispose of their waste and discovered the environmental as well as economic benefits.
The Country Music Hall of Fame downtown joined the Mayor’s Food Saver Challenge in 2017. This challenge has the goal of reducing the amount of food sent to landfills. The first step for participating restaurants was to divert edible food to local nonprofits to help relieve hunger in Middle Tennessee. Remaining food would be sent for animal consumption, and lastly to be composted. The Country Music Hall of Fame donated 13,800 pounds of food in 2017 and added glass recycling and composting through private local companies. These actions led to an increase in the waste diversion rate from 22.8% (January 2017) to 51.7% (December 2017). The weight of trash sent to the landfill decreased by 41%[iii]. Kudos to the Country Music Hall of Fame on this great achievement!
Bacon & Caviar Gourmet Catering, based on Nolensville Pike, also joined the Mayor’s Food Saver Challenge and decided to jump all in with composting and recycling. According to owner Ed Smith, the business required three dumpster pickups per week before adding composting and recycling, and only one weekly pickup afterwards. Once they decided to add more options, Ed says it wasn’t too difficult to get all the employees on board through meetings, signage and reminders about what can be composted and recycled. Moving to one trash pickup per week helped to achieve monthly savings on disposal. Now that there is less trash overall, B&C is considering switching to a smaller dumpster. Because there is no longer any food in the trash (it gets composted through Compost Nashville), staff have noticed fewer flies hanging around the dumpster. Ed says: “It makes us and our staff feel good to be doing our part. If we were not saving a dime we would still be doing everything we are now, because we did not realize how much we were contributing to the landfill through our business practices.”
Second Presbyterian Church, a faith community on Belmont Boulevard, recently renegotiated its waste disposal contract. After carefully looking at what gets thrown away and recycled, the congregation realized that some cardboard was not making it into the recycling containers, since the containers tend to get full long before being picked up. Adding a cardboard recycling dumpster diverted enough waste to allow the church to downsize their trash dumpster and reduce pickups from twice a week to once weekly. These changes lowered the waste disposal bill by $300 per month, all while sending less waste to the landfill. This is definitely a win-win situation!
If you would like to explore lowering the waste footprint for your business, restaurant or the apartment complex where you live while saving money, it is important to know what your trash consists of before starting to make changes. Do a simple waste inventory by observing and recording what gets thrown out for one week. If a lot of it is food waste, see how it can be diverted: join the Mayor’s Food Saver Challenge, donate food to a local non-profit, and either compost yourself or sign up with a local composting company. If a lot of it can be recycled, consider adding or expanding your recycling service by adding a cardboard pickup, glass recycling, or separate white office paper recycling. Once you have decreased the amount of waste going to the landfill, you may be able to reduce the trash dumpster size and/or reduce the number of trash pickups to save money.
Socket and the Department of General Services are inspired by these examples from the private sector. As leaders in public sector waste management and diversion, Socket recently launched an office composting pilot project. Now, the more than 50 men and women who work at the Office of Fleet Management’s light-duty shop are composting their food waste, coffee grounds, and food-soiled paper. Items are picked up and composted offsite by The Compost Company. This new program, which will be expanded to other facilities, is expected to divert significant tonnage from the landfill.
Let the Country Music Hall of Fame, B&C Catering, and Second Presbyterian serve to inspire you, too: let 2018 be the year you reduce waste and save money!
Blog author, Ms. Michelle Hamman, is the Department of General Services' Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Specialist.
The preceding information is provided as information for our users and does not constitute an endorsement of any product, service or individual by Socket or the Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County.
[iii] Ebert, Karl. “Re: restaurant question.” Message to Michelle Hamman. 1/16/2018. Email.