What is organic waste management?
Organic waste is an umbrella category that includes any material that comes from a plant or an animal and is biodegradable, such as leftover food, yard trimmings, food-stained paper, and livestock manure and agricultural waste.
Organic waste management refers to the strategies you use to reduce, collect, process and dispose of the food and organic waste produced in your business. When organic material is sent to landfills, it emits huge amounts of methane—one of the major greenhouse gases (GHG).
The benefits of organic waste management
By minimizing how much organic waste your business sends to the landfill and how frequently, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Also, sound management of your organic waste shows that you are paying attention to the environmental concerns of your employees and customers. And finally, policymakers are also starting to introduce regulations to ban organic waste from entering landfills, so acting now can mitigate any future impact from regulations on your activities.
Roadmap to better organic waste management
Assess your current system
Before you can improve your system, you need to understand where you’re starting from. Take stock of your current waste management systems by asking yourself these questions:
- What types of waste are you generating?
- How much waste are you diverting through reuse, recycling, composting, etc.?
- If you have different waste streams, how well are they separated (i.e., are organic materials ending up in the trash)?
What can go in your compost bin can vary depending on the municipality you’re in or the service providers in your area. Contact them to obtain a list of the materials you can compost using their services. This will highlight opportunities for improvement. If your system is complex, you may consider hiring a waste management expert to conduct an audit of your waste management system.
Respect the waste hierarchy
Follow the waste hierarchy for proper management of materials, which ranks the approaches to waste management from most preferred to least preferred.
1. Prevent waste
Steps you can take with food include comparing your purchasing inventory with customer ordering and modifying menus.
2. Reduce the quantity of waste generated
By examining the way you store food and handle it, you can reduce waste from food preparation.
3. Divert waste from the landfill by feeding hungry people
Donate excess food to local food banks and shelters. In Canada, the law provides protections for companies who donate food rather than throwing it away. Otherwise, consider donations to local farms to feed animals.
Sort your organic waste from your residual materials into specific waste streams. These organic materials will be processed to be reintegrated into other production processes.
5. Energy recovery
When contracting a waste hauler, consider incineration with energy recovery before incineration without energy recovery or landfilling.
Get your employees on board
Your employees need to be aware of the changes to come. Ahead of the launch of your new programs, prepare employees and other building occupants through awareness and outreach activities. Ask your waste hauler for awareness tools, such as posters and labels to put on your equipment (like bins and containers) and walls. You can also ask for a waste management expert from the municipality, your private waste hauler, or even a local non-profit to come to your workplace.
Consider proper training for employees more in touch with day-to-day waste management, such as janitors, warehouse employees and servers. These employees can become your waste management ambassadors to ensure your programs stays on track.
Make improvements and set objectives
Periodically assess your waste management system via an audit. This will give you a full picture of the system in place. Using real data such as the annual weight of waste saved from the landfill will allow you to report on progress and provide feedback to your employees.
Gather frequent feedback from employees on what is working and what should be adjusted. This will show that you care about their well-being and ensure that you can address the gaps in your improved collection system.
Finally, setting objectives to show your commitment to your customers and employees. For example, you can aim to send zero organic waste to landfill within a set period.
Find the right grant for your climate action
Discover our list of over 60 governmental active grants, tax credits and loan programs to support the environmental initiatives of Canadian businesses.
National Resources Canada: Greenhouse gas calculator for organic waste management
This calculator helps users estimate the impact on GHG emissions of different organic waste management approaches.
Government of Canada: Reducing municipal solid waste
Find resources on reducing both organic and inorganic waste, along with an inventory of recycling programs in Canada.
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