It is estimated that food wastes account for 50 percent of the material a restaurant dumps in the garbage bin. What to do? The answer may be in compost.

The Commercial Food Waste Pilot Program

Conducted by University of California Cooperative Extension, the pilot program explored the potential of diverting food waste by encouraging food businesses to operate an in-vessel composter at their site. Several Sonoma County food businesses participated in the program with some promising results:

  • The composter could pay for itself in lower trash hauling fees in about three years.
  • At one restaurant, 50 lbs. of food scrap per day was successfully processed. And with a 3 cubic yard capacity, the composter could handle all of the restaurant's food waste for more than a year.
  • At another restaurant, which served 7,000 people in 1998, the composter was used to recycle both food wastes and paper plates.

For more information about the pilot project, visit the Commercial Food Waste Pilot Program website or contact Paul Vossen from the University of California Cooperative Extension at 707-565-2621 to be involved in the project.

Other Composting Options

Indoor vermicomposting: This type of composting uses red worms to transform your food waste into beneficial "castings". The typical style uses a box the size of a blue box and can be stored under your lunchroom kitchen sink or in a corner, odor free.

Outdoor vermicomposting: As above, this also uses red worms but the bin is usually larger (a cedar composter, for example) and is lined with insulation. This is an inexpensive alternative to disposal!