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Get paid for your organic food waste

UPDATED What if restaurants/hotels/company- and university cafes in urban areas as well as urban dwellers have a chance to sell their biodegradable food waste? Imagine a network of local farmers who deliver fruits and vegetables to restaurants/hotels/households. The local farmers offer the service to collect the organic waste and use it in their farms.

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova
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Restaurants would sell the waste on daily basis to local farmers and will get a small amount deducted from the price of the next order. I can imagine the biodegradable waste could be sold by a kilogram (just an idea, not sure what is the best way to sell it)
Restaurants will promote this to people who come to eat at the restaurant. Thus they will spread the word.
How could this work?
  1.   Set up a webpage where restaurants/catering service companies/kindergartens/university- and company cafes can register.
  2. Register for the service online
  3.    Segregate your waste; you will be awarded with a small amount for the waste only if you have properly separated the biodegradable waste from the rest. Restaurants could store the organic waste in pots that will be exchanged with new ones when they are picked up;
  4.    Once you register, you enter day/time when the pick-up service will come. Urban dwellers can register 2-3 times a week depending on the size of the family; restaurants/company cafeterias/schools, most probably daily. Build from Johan Löfström: For collection, the individuls get free paper-bags with printed info on it on what is allowed to put in it. The paper makes the food waste dry up a little and reduces any eventual odours.
  5.    In exchange for selling the organic waste, you get a receipt. With the receipt you either get cash or get the amount deducted next time you purchase products from the local farmers, for example. Option (based on feedback from Johan Löfström and Shaona- instead of receiving payment from the farmers, those who give the food waste, could get an additional quantity of the produce (i.e. 1kg of carrots, 1kg. of tomatoes with the next order).
  6.     The organic waste is used by a cooperative of local farmers who compost the waste.

Would farmers have incentives to make the effort to collect the organic waste? Is it worth the effort for a couple of dollars? -> If it turns out that there is no viable business model for the farmers, I suggest some incentives from the local government to motivate them to enroll in the collection of organic waste.

This is very convenient for urban dwellers who are always in a hurry, have less space, no gardens, even no balconies and almost no time to take care of biodegradable waste.
This is convenient for larger hotel groups, restaurants, etc. As Susan mentions in her concept "....After weddings and special events, food scraps and leftovers were sealed in plastic bags and thrown away. The companies did not want to be legally liable for a health issue so they could not donate most or any of the food to food shelters or non-profits...."
Which common problems does this concept address (as cited by

   1. The biggest problem is segregation at individual homes. Most homes are not very consistent or dependable when it comes to segregation.
----> The concept addresses this: If they are given monetary incentives to segregate the waste, they might change their behavior.

   2. The second is the journey of this segregated waste from the home, down the corridor, down the stairs (lift) to the common facility. Who will pick it up, what time, how often in a day, who will drop it into the composter, where will you leave the container, what about hands washing….
-------> The concept addresses this: Have someone to come and pick it for you

Some data points from Queensland:
* Organic waste in Queensland is estimated at 500kg per person a year, including food waste, paper cardboard and bio solids.
* Estimated organic waste in Queensland- 1,685,000 tonnes per year for a population of ~3,3 million.
* Food waste represents the largest chunk of domestic waste- 28% vs. commercial waste- 12%.
* Although a number of compost manufacturers and suppliers operate in south-east
Queensland, only a limited number currently compost green and organic waste.

Addional numbers from other countries:

    * Bogota has 4 million people, 0,5 kg of organic waste per capita per day.
    * The urban Indian home produces 0,75-2kg of organic waste per day, which represents 70% of the total household waste. (source:
     * USA- According to the EPA, 33 million tons of food waste sent to landfills in the U.S. every year . As food waste decomposes, it releases large amounts of methane, which has 22-25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. If all food waste nation-wide that is currently landfilled was composted, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 31 million metric tons of CO2—the same as taking 6 million passenger cars off the road.
     * New York City’s accommodation, foodservice, and retail sectors discard 1,100 tons of food waste each day. This food waste is hauled to distant landfills and buried, resulting in a loss of valuable nutrients and energy and at a cost of $84M per year.

I interviewed a friend of mine whose parents have a mid-sized catering business in Germany. Question: Would you be willing to separate the organic waste from the rest if you receive a small monetary incentive? Answer: most probably yes, because 1) it will save us additional recycle bin fees for which we have to pay to the community and 2) reduce our costs as we'll receive some money.

Note: For this concept to work, it requires a small network of farmers and urban dwellers/restaurants/hotels.
The inspiration comes from the way we get reimbursed for returning plastic bottles instead of throwing them away. Jean Walsh shared the following link: "We have a curbside composting program that collects food scraps from residents and businesses and converts them into rich compost that is sold to local organic farms."


Join the conversation:

Photo of Veronica Contucci

It's awesome to see the amount of collected ideas and opinions! Since some years passed...
Did something concrete emerge from this conversation? Krassimira Iordanova are you still working on this idea?
We are a group of students willing to make it real, let's start a conversation!!

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