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Re:Organic: Old Human Food = New Plant Food

A business concept to turn wasted food into useful compost

Photo of Colin Willox
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Shortly after I graduated from business school in Canada, some classmates and I decided to look into the opportunity of wasted food. 

We were primarily inspired by the stunning, and not well-known, fact that food waste contributes to a massive percentage of emissions via methane in landfills (not to mention the transportation of the waste to the landfills.) Methane gets less attention than carbon dioxide (CO2), but it's just as big a threat.

As I worked at a cafe at the time, I also discovered via interviews and research that used coffee grounds are a great source of nitrogen, which helps to build a rich compost by providing the bacteria with energy.

We had our idea: create and sell bags of compost that are made from others' waste! And use the coffee grounds as an input to speed up the chemical process. Initial candidates for food collection were mainly local grocery stores, which of course would provide this "waste" material for free (our inputs!)

We called it Re:Organic (I guess we were stuck on getting the concepts of recycling and organic matter in the name... hindsight is 20/20.)

We pitched the idea at the TiEQuest business venture competition in Toronto, and even made it to the second round.

In the end, the large amount of early fixed costs (picking up and delivering the food waste using trucks) was the reason we did not explore the concept further at that time. However, this does not mean it's not possible. There are likely similar concepts that have been implemented in a more sustainable way!

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

How might we use the waste created by others (often free of charge) to create something that will be of value to people or the planet?

Tell us about your work experience:

As a UX Designer, I love to walk in others' shoes. Whether it's digital UI or the experience of a sustainable urban space, designing better for humans to live together is my goal.

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Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Colin!

Thank you for your submission! How did the cost for collection of the food waste compare to the 'saved cost' of avoiding landfill gate fees (the fees paid to send waste to landfill)?

Also, have you heard of this company in the UK - http://www.bio-bean.com/ ? I'd love to know your thoughts?

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