Many state agencies have strong recycling programs for traditional materials such as paper, metal, glass, and plastic. Far fewer agencies have food donation and composting programs for their organics. Diverting food scraps and other organic waste to composting or anaerobic digestion reduces methane generation in landfills and sequesters significant amounts of elemental carbon, all while producing a beneficial soil amendment that contributes to healthy soil and reduces the need for energy-intensive fertilizers and pesticides.
Track and Assess Food Waste in Your Office
The first step in developing an organics diversion program is understanding what kinds of organic materials your office generates and where. Pull together a team of people to perform a waste audit and use the following guides to collect and track data for use in developing an office composting program.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Tools for Assessing Wasted Food provides a variety of ways to track, assess, and calculate the impacts of wasted food.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's logbook for tracking excess food can be used to collect data that can be used to improve office food waste diversion efforts.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) offers organizations the opportunity to pledge to improve their food management practices and report their results.
Develop a Composting Program
The following resources can help you get started:
- A Guide to Workplace Composting from the US Composting Council is a complete guide for starting the process of composting and food waste diversion at your office.
- Find a waste hauler that accepts composting on state contract. Use the Recycling an Trash Removal Services centralized contract to find one that's on state contract. If you cannot find a hauler on state contract that collects food scraps, contact NYSDEC to find out if there is a food scraps hauler in your area that is not on state contract.
Many state offices are housed in buildings with cafeterias. These establishments can donate excess food to help alleviate the hunger of food insecure populations and can often reduce their disposal costs.
- The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: Food Donation for Institutions and Businesses - Agencies that have cafeterias in their buildings can use this resource to help increase their food waste diversion efforts.
- Further tips, ideas, and valuable food waste reduction information that can be used by office, agency, and cafeteria staff can be found at savethefood.com.
Organics Diversion Through Lawn Care
Mulching grass clippings and leaves into the turf help provide moisture and nutrients to the grass. Grass mulching is quite common especially with the proliferation of efficient mulching mowers. Mulching leaves in place has not taken off, but can be a cheap and easy alternative to managing this bounty from Mother Nature.
- Westchester County's Love 'Em and Leave 'Em website provides guidance and education toolkits that offices and agencies can use in conjunction with their lawn care staff to reduce yard waste.