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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.

Advantages:
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 http://www.dailydump.org):

   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: http://www.dailydump.org)
     * 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." http://www.sfenvironment.org/our_programs/topics.html?ti=6

56 comments

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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!!
#thinkcircular

Photo of Param Singh

madam plz contact me for this.. as i can sell 100 kg of fresh vegetable scrap to the ... any former but i need rewards for that.. as im working on a project.. recycling of industrial scrap..
plz contact or whatsapp 08872109212 , parm.mech@gmail.com and fb: www.fb.com/theGreenJRT/ 

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Another problem for small houseowner is the smell of the waste. I bet there might me a natural component that you could add to your waste so that it doesn't smell and attract bacteria.. might be worth doing some research on existing innovations.

Photo of Johan Löfström

I have a similar system in my kitchen, no smell at all (as long as i do not put prawn shells or fish guts in it) (and the system is city wide, with more than 85.000 persons using it and hardly no complaints at all)

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Oops, meant to add this comment to this concept. I got the concepts with the same image mixed up in my bookmarks. Well, I guess this applies equally to Jennifer Tam's idea as well. No harm in duplicate comments when addressing similar concepts. However, I appreciate the thorough research that you have done. Here is what I meant to post towards this concept initially:

Paying people for their food waste is a superb idea! It's embodied energy, and we need to think about it economically, as you have so tactfully pointed out. Incentivizing people to participate in the meaningful exchange of biomass would be a huge leap. That said, we need to think about how this idea is deployed from an infrastructure/ supply chain side of things. How is food waste retrieved in our cities? How is it processed? How far are facilities from the point of pick-up? Strategically, where do we benefit from centralized facilities or distributed nodes? Is some hybrid of centralized/distrubuted facilities possible? What are the supply-chain's paths of least resistance from a transportation perspective? Biomass is heavy, and fuel is expensive.

I would like to point you toward a student exercise I did for the city of Boston that relates to the above. I Look forward to the development of your concept in the coming weeks.

http://www.siteunseen.org/index.php?/project/municipal-biomass/

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Laci, thanks for your comment, sharing the link of the exercise you did and for the great questions you asked! The way I envision this concept is to connect directly the farmers, who use the foodwaste from urban dwellers and universities, restaurants, cafés, etc. to convert it into compost for their own farms. For me this is a way to shorten the value chain and decentralize it. This also creates relationships. I can imagine a central hub (a portal or even a market place) where consumers and farmers register for the service and agree on conditions for selling the organic waste or exchange the organic waste for fresh produce. I tried to visualize this with a simple mock up. Please let me know your thoughts.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Hi, I think this is a great idea.. The reverse value chain is a practice that companies haven´t really explored, and if developed by the citizen sector may be a great way to generate income and help the environment while doing it.
I know of an Ashoka Fellow that has invented a technology that turns organic waste into a fertilizer that is better, cheaper, and greener than conventional alternatives: Luis Orlando Castro, from Colombia:
http://www.ashoka.org/node/3478
Great mindmapping!

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Maricarmen, thanks for your feedback and for pointing to the research of Luis Orlando. Brilliant work!!! I like 1) the holistic approach of his project, a concept where erveryone wins (he is making the necessary connections among recyclers, waste-processing plants, government training institutes, farmers, buyers of farmers' produce, environmental restoration efforts, and municipal governments that control waste-disposal contracts) and 2) the results, which are amazing-"...Crops capture 96 percent of Bioabono's high level of nutrients, in contrast to the 10-20 percent capture rate from conventional fertilizers, and its application reduces water needs by 30 percent..."

Photo of An Old Friend

The implications of this article are quite astonishing, particularly as it relates to this challenge (and bone marrow).

http://bit.ly/lhPv9z

I think it could tie in magnificently with your concept, in a counter-intuitive way.

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Great find Kirk - you're right, the article hits the nail on the head for this challenge and for the Bone Marrow challenge. It's all about setting the right default option!

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Kirk, great article; short but very much to the point...thanks for sharing! I have two takeaways: 1) incentives are important, especially finanacial ones and 2) if composting and food scrap segregation are the default options, things would be much easy...the challenge is how to get there?
On another note: my personal observation- the size of the portions in the US are almost twice the size of the portions in Europe....

Photo of Johan Löfström

there is also another side to financial incentives : If we offer a free service to people that reduces the costs of normal garbage collection. Individuals gain from it, and we cause no big administrative costs to figure out how much each supporter should be paid.

Photo of An Old Friend

No wonder as to why the US has an obesity problem...

I think your idea has 3 parts: (1) the compost (2) financial incentive and (3) smaller portions....a win-win-win! (Did I miss anything?)

I'd be happy to do a graphic this weekend... let me know!

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Kirk, this is fantastic! It would be super if you can make a graphic. I can use it as the picture on my concept....and of course I will give you credits for that! :-)

Photo of An Old Friend

Deal!

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

I wonder if the compost reward program could be integrated into already existing recycling rewards programs. If consumers are already seeing the reward from recycling, additional rewards for segregating organic waste would be that much easier. Implementation would also be easier as the foundation of the concept is in place.

http://www.greenerpackage.com/corporate_strategy/cash_trash_recycling_rewards_program_expands_colorado

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Russell, thanks a lot for sharing the link! I like the title- "Cash for Trash" and I find the concept of the Recycle Bank- http://www.recyclebank.com/ really brilliant! Earning ReycleBank points to build good will in the community, redeem points is just a great way to engage people and increase awareness.

Photo of An Old Friend

Have you seen these? For home use, http://www.dailydump.org/products and http://www.naturemill.com/

Recycle Bank is super cool indeed!

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Kirk, thanks for your note! I have been both the dailydump.com and the naturemill.com. Infact, there is a discussion on Jennifer's concept re naturemill.com-http://www.openideo.com/open/localfood/concepting/compost-it/ Check it out, if you want!:-)

Photo of Jennifer Tam

Great idea! What I like most about this idea is the social enterprise aspect while also taking some of the pressure off of the city. Often times, the city is already tapped out on its resources and this idea encourages different communities to work together to reduce/reuse waste allowing communities to find solutions that work best for them. In terms of the employment angle, this would be a great opportunity to give people job opportunities. United We Can in Canada has an interesting model that might be of interest to you: http://www.unitedwecan.ca/HOME.html

Photo of An Old Friend

They sell composting bins (http://dpw.lacounty.gov/epd/sg/bc_bins.cfm) and composting worms. Essentially, folks could manage the compost process and sell the product to local farmers...slightly different model than separating the waste, and putting it on the curb-side for pick-up because it would be already processed (a value-add), ready for use by the time of the scheduled pick-up. Farmers and compost participants deal directly with each other.

Participants basically set up a miniature business in their backyards. Several neighbors could collaborate. (reminds me of the movie "Dumb and Dumber" when they were saving up for the worm store!) It bypasses the standard waste streams altogether.

This suggestion doesn't address restaurants; with restaurants, maybe they could simply reduce the size of the entrees!! (kidding, sorta)

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

This aggregation of compost could definitely work with apartment complexes (see dailydump.org) and would be good for cities, since many people wouldn't mind composting, but don't have anywhere to put their compost!

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Hi Maia, Daily Dump points out on their website that one of the major challenges is waste segregation; people usually either don't have time or don't feel motivated....

Photo of An Old Friend

It is difficult for people to change their habits. There's a cultural dimension at play; some cultures simply waste more.

I think what really helps is considering the how any concept adapts to various living situations (apartments, homes) and waste practices (restaurants, residential, business), fitting into an overall system. So there might be several programs within a single district. :)

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Kirk, good point! Do you still think that monetary incentives would make a difference for individuals, restaurants, etc?

Photo of An Old Friend

Short answer, yes!

Further up the chain, I wonder if this program could coincide with consulting businesses on entree size; taking note of how much waste is generated, on average. The incentive for them is that it could help them optimize their revenue by reducing waste. If the system for restaurants could be designed into their operations, it would be a no-brainer.

For homeowners, holding community workshops (like your concept in the maternal challenge) would be a great way to teach people how easy it is to make money from their compost. In this case, I think creating a network that unites farmers with participants would facilitate the program.

Renters are probably the most difficult to address. I suppose that if we require less of them, the compost would be "lower grade" but it may still have value for some growers.

Segregating the various groups is helping me think of a broad program that is customized to the needs of each group...I'm thinking of your concept as a tool box of solutions intended to address this challenge that you have identified.

Photo of An Old Friend

(And, the attractiveness of creating a market-based solution circumvents the need for government resources, and in fact is reducing their work load...tax incentives, maybe? The money saved here could be used to create the grants that Maia is referring to....thoughts?)

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Krassimira, what I've learned from composting discussions in Washington DC is that restaurants like composting because it decreases the amount of money they have to pay for garbage disposal.

However, they need a complete service that will implement training for their employees and they have to find a company that wants to accept food scraps! It also needs to get picked up regularly as you mentioned (so they don't get rats/pests).

From my understanding, there is growing interest from waste disposal companies to start composting food scraps for residents, but some of the major obstacles are zoning for transfer stations, since composting yards are usually quite distant from the cities themselves (so doing so in small quantities is not cost efficient) and transportation. Having to use double the number of trucks can be both capital intensive and an annoyance for those in the local neighborhood. Some cities/companies have been able to make double use of current trucks or have purchased trucks with separated sides to solve this problem, but this generally only works at scale. There's a need for government/policy involvement unless pickup is done for large groups, like farmers markets, apartment blocks, or large cafeterias.

For larger producers, such as universities and restaurants, there are companies out there that will provide the service, but prefer the pre-consumer (kitchen) scraps since they're less likely to be contaminated.

Not sure if farmers would do the pickup, but could certainly be a customer or a beneficiary, with the composting/waste company coordinating the rewards. But it would be great to talk to farmers to see if that's actually the case.

I really like the idea of restaurants/cafeterias/individuals getting rewards in vegetables :).

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Sorry for such a long post! Hopefully at least something in there will be useful...

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Maia, thanks for the great post and I love the constructive perspective that you bring! As you say, it would be interesting to find out if this would be interested for farmers and be a financially viable solution for a co-operative of farmers, let's say....

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Kirk, I like the idea of some sort of a consulting business and the idea about the different target groups. I think there is potential also in what you say.... "creating a network that unites farmers with participants would facilitate the program...."- I think this might work well with Sarah's concept- http://openideo.com/open/localfood/concepting/get-it-delivered

Photo of An Old Friend

Some good information and ideas, ladies. :)

Could there be a way to "certify" residential composters through a program, to eliminate the risk associated with contamination?

With enough participants, there may be a way to re-imagine this, since it has revenue-generating opportunity in the market, particularly for large groups such as "farmers markets, apartment blocks, or large cafeterias." It is much more challenging to address individual residences, given the hassle and small scale.

In Europe, the waste and recycling system is much more sophisticated than in the U.S. They are very good at separating, for example, various kinds of glass...and the green-glass pickup may only occur once monthly, due to the lower volumes. In this culture, it isn't a hassle but a way of life. Are there other models that we can learn from?

(It would be nice to see more biodegradable containers, and eliminate the entire concept of "waste" by creating closed loop systems. But this is a separate discussion)

Photo of Johan Löfström

RE: Educating residents to compost and recycle correctly:
In my city there is first a little manual, that comes with the bins. Then there is some printed info on the paper bags that we use for carring out compost to the bin. Then there is a little magazine coming in the post box 4-6 times each year with news around recycling tech and progress reports on our trash situation. Then there is tv-ads with local celebrities that show where all the different garbage should be thrown and how it is useful. And also there exists a big web page available in more then a dozen languages, with an online flash-game for kids to score points on how to recycle correctly.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Kirk, I also like the 'certification' process. But that's also not as scalable as the mass campaigns and accepted way of life practice that Johan describes.

Is it better to start small and grow from the individual level or cover entire cities all at once, with the understanding that people will get better over time?

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

I believe starting small with one specific target group ( as Kirk mentioned different age groups, different ethnic groups deal with garbage differently) with make it easier for the project...and grow from there....
As to Kirk's point about the certification, we can think of "certifiying" communties, but I guess maybe at a later stage.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

This reminds me of a program where the city of San Francisco collects used cooking oil from restaurants to fuel their biodiesel cars. The idea is a bit different, but the concept works!
http://sfwater.org/msc_main.cfm/MC_ID/17/MSC_ID/401

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Robin, thanks for your comment! Great idea you're sharing that can be leveraged with this concept as well.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Great concept - I recently added a new one based on this idea. However, instead of individual incentives, there are incentives to support your community. Thoughts?

http://openideo.com/open/localfood/concepting/win-community-food-grants-by-composting/

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Maia, I like the community spin on your concept. A true incentive for the communties to win grants could be the quality of the oranic waste and not the quantity. I like the idea with the map and the color code showing the more waste conscious communties....
As far as the individual incentives go in my concept, I know it is a bit of controversial discussion.... along these lines I like what you say in your concept "....there is something pleasing about being less wasteful...."

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

The other aspect of the community idea isn't just the incentives for individuals to separate, but also for some really active people to go beyond their personal household and have an good excuse to teach others. Instead of asking for money for a local program, they can say "help us compost" and come up with innovations on how to best spread the message.

Agreed that behavior change is the biggest obstacle. Any system that makes it easier and more rewarding is going to increase participation.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Krassimira, thank you for your comment on my related post. YES! I'm glad we are on the same wavelength. The remaining questions to ponder are: can farmers take any kind of food waste? do foods contaminated with dairy affect their composting processes in anyway? This perhaps can be best answered by interviewing small, medium and large-scale farmers. Also, I liked your idea about cash and in-kind vegetable incentives. As a small business owner, the bartering system is more preferred than the cash system - everyone wins! Nice build!

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Susan, thanks for your comment! And you're right- in order to find the best way how to segregate the organic waste/what to segregate we need to interview some the farmers as they will be the ones benefiting from the idea.

Photo of Louise Wilson

Have a look at the work SEED Foundation, social enterprise are doing on the subject http://www.seedfoundation.org.uk/enterprises/foodloop/ - it might give you some insight!

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Great idea. We used to do something similar in my coop in college - we collaborated with a CSA that accepted our food waste and in exchange lowered our yearly contribution. There was the added trouble of bringing it to them, but you are tackling that, so that makes it much easier.

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Christina, great you're sharing this. Can you please share a bit more details on how exactly it worked- by how much was the yearly contribution lowered? how often did they collect the food waste? where did you store the food waste? Thanks a bunch!

Photo of Amrutha Krishnan

Hey cool idea Krassimira, it would be great if people feel motivated to actually segregate their organic waste. In India there is a concept of the raddiwala who is basically a person who buys all the waste paper from you. So people actually keep all their waste newspapers , magazines and other waste papers safely and when enough has accumulated they approach the raddiwala who weighs the waste and accordingly pays for it. So on one hand we get paid for something that was otherwise wasteful for us and on the other hand the waste is actually recycled and used for making other items. It is really amazing to see how can take inspiration from our culture to come up without interesting, cool and sustainable solutions.

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Hi Amrutha, yes, I just came back from Delhi, where I saw these people in the streets of Old Delhi. In my country, Bulgaria, this is also the case. In Germany, where I live, you don't get paid for the paper waste, as people are disciplined (I assume) and they do it anyways:-)
But segregarting kitchen waste on daily basis requires efforts and a monetary incentive can definitely pay off, I believe.

Photo of Johan Löfström

In germany and sweden we know that the garbage company earns a little income on selling some of the material back to recycling industry, so it offsets and lowers our total costs of the normal yearly garbage pick-up. And sorting out the stuff that weighs the most from the normal garbage (glass, organic waste, newspapers) will make total weight much less in garbage trucks and less thrown on land fills.

I myself recycle 99-100% (of the weight)

But I am very hesitant about giving individuals any direct cash or "coupons" for their weight. This could really cause them to throw anything in it, to make the bins heavier. And it could maybe increase the food waste. And it could increase costs of having staff manually sort through the waste bags, or it causes compost quality and the final soil to be terribly bad.

I have seen that raddiwalas use water to soak their magazine stacks to increase their weight when they will deliver it to get paid. And in large scale this is wasting valuable water resources just for individual profit.

Do you understand my doubts?
it must rather be a passive repayment of incentives instead of direct. and to avoid any extra transports or manual labour that is extra above the normal garbage trucks and pick-up-routes.

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Johan, thanks for your comment....point taken....I see your doubts about people increasing the waste to make the bins heavier and get more money. My thought: the remuneration you recieve for the food waste will be just a fraction of the amount of money you pay for the food itself...so, if you waste food on purpose, you're wasting money which cannot be compensated with what you receive from the food waste.
You mention passive repayment of incentives- can you elaborate on that? Thanks a bunch!

Photo of Johan Löfström

I meant that money in the picture can cause some people to steal food or to dump rocks or concrete into the bins. (that does not create good economy for compost process)

----

Passive repayment is when we all accept that: together in solidarity with whole community, we are helping the garbage company earn income based on the value of our materials. So we trust that our yearly garbage bill will be reduced each year as the percent rate on collected recycled materials increase.
And packaging companies saves 33-90% energy when using our recycled materials as compared to only buying raw materials. so we also trust that prices on packaging is also going to come down and not up. (and we hope that they use some of the profits to research better materials)

-----

Also : for some people it is enough incentive to know that they help reduce the total carbon footprint of the city and country. but conservatives need several incentives and reasons to join a cause.

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Thanks, Johan!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Nice one Krassimira! You might be interested in this model: http://bit.ly/cTJsO7 I think you should be able to load up inspirations from different challenges now so give it a go if you see fit.

Photo of Krassimira Iordanova

Meena, thanks for the sharing the model! When I bookmark your post and try to refer to it from my current concept, all I see are only the concepts/inspirations from the current challenge.

Photo of chloe hanna korpi

This is a great idea, and has the potential to be very successful. My parents live in San Francisco, CA and since the city started providing compost pick-up they have reduced the waste they send to the landfill to less than a handful each week, its amazing!

Photo of Vincent Cheng

Very nice way of closing the loop, while also doubling the efficiency of the delivery/pickup route!

Photo of Arjan Tupan

Great concept. Where I live now, there is no good way to separate waste. This would be a good solution.