Nearly one-third of Pierce County’s waste is food, making it the largest category of material entering our landfill. In 2010, the county began exploring how to manage and reduce food waste, and is now asking for the community’s input via a series of public workshops from August to October.
“Whether it’s someone cleaning out their refrigerator or a restaurant disposing of unfinished meals, we throw out tons of food every day,” said Rick Johnston, Public Works and Utilities solid waste project coordinator. “We need to find an efficient and effective way to manage our food waste. We want your feedback on this issue, so we can develop a plan that fits the needs of our community.”
The public is invited to attend one of 15 workshops held across Pierce County to learn more about food waste and several options for managing it. Attendees will be asked to weigh in via a survey at the end of the workshop. The workshops will be held between Aug. 16 and Oct. 2. Find a workshop near you online here. A virtual workshop will also be available on Pierce County’s Web site for those who can’t attend in person.
“We encourage you to come learn why food waste is a problem in the United States, what Pierce County is already doing about food waste, and which options are being considered to manage it,” added Johnston. “Solid waste management is a local issue — it’s not one-size-fits-all. We want to use the data we have and feedback from our residents to create a reasonable program at a reasonable cost.”
Several options to manage and reduce food waste were developed for Pierce County by SAIC, a national consulting firm. They completed a comprehensive study of available practices, while considering the potential economic, environmental and carbon footprint impacts of the options. Pierce County and RW Beck, which is now part of SAIC, conducted a waste audit in 2010 to find out what is in the county’s waste stream. The audit found that food waste makes up 28 percent. In 2011, SAIC was hired to develop the potential options to manage and reduce food waste in Pierce County. The firm looked at every available option for food waste management, reviewed potential impacts, and eliminated options that didn’t have a proven track record. The options were then presented to stakeholders from local governments, the solid waste industry and citizen representatives from the Solid Waste Advisory Committee.
The following options will be discussed at the workshops: (a.) Emphasize Waste Reduction — Increase public education programs to prevent food waste from being generated in the first place; (b.) Emphasize Energy Recovery — Dispose some, or all, food waste in order to generate landfill gas and recover energy from that gas; and (c.) Emphasize Collection and Composting — Collect food waste from homes and/or businesses to produce compost or fertilizer.
The feedback from workshop participants will be reviewed and used to develop a plan that meets the needs of the county. This plan will then be presented to the Pierce County Council.