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4 Reasons to Collect Organics in the Workplace

Making a Positive Impact on Global Food Waste

Food waste is a major global issue. Over 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced is wasted annually, releasing harmful methane and CO2. It’s calculated that if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind only China and the US.

It’s a prevalent problem in every aspect of our lives, from the produce that is deemed not pretty enough to make it to the supermarket shelves to the groceries we do buy that rots in our fridge before we get a chance to eat them.

While food waste is a problem in our personal lives, it also affects workplaces worldwide. Many people eat at least one meal a day at the office, often two. Plus, catered events, team lunches, and the mysterious food that was forgotten about for months in the shared fridge can all contribute to the food waste our offices produce.

That’s why it’s imperative that we find ways to reduce food waste in the first place and properly dispose of it when it does end up uneaten. Every office should collect organics, and here are four reasons why.

1. Reduces the Volume of Waste to Landfill

Landfill waste has a big impact on our carbon footprint. When food waste ends up in landfills, it decomposes anaerobically, causing the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Methane has the potential to cause more short-term climate damage than even CO2, even if it dissipates faster in the atmosphere.

In New Zealand, it’s estimated that 22% of all landfill emissions come from food waste – both from households and businesses. Reducing our methane emissions from landfills can therefore have a huge impact on mitigating short-term climate change risks and set us up for better long-term outcomes as well.

Additionally, many businesses are looking for ways to reduce landfill waste in general, especially as waste levies increase. Separating food waste from landfill waste is an effective and simple way to do just that.

Markus spiske 4 PG6w Ll Vag4 unsplash

2. Generate Fertiliser from Food Waste

Another huge benefit of collecting food waste is that it can be broken down into nutrient-rich compost. This “black gold” can help grow foods, regenerate soil, and act as a carbon sink, pulling CO2 from the atmosphere.

Food waste can be broken down in a number of ways. First, it can be traditionally composted, which involves adding food scraps – the ‘greens’ – with the ‘browns’ including sawdust, straw, dead leaves, or even cardboard and paper. This process heats up and breaks down the materials over a matter of months, resulting in earthy, healthy fertiliser.

The other main type of composting is called vermiculture and involves the use of worms to eat the food scraps away. Similar to traditional composting, this process happens slowly over the course of several months, and the end result is the same.

While it may not be possible at your workplace, composting on-site can be a great way to showcase sustainability. Samson New Zealand is currently working to roll out worm bins across their properties to allow tenants to easily collect and compost their food waste right from their offices.

If you collect food scraps and compost directly on-site, you could use the compost to put in potted plants, flower beds, or give to employees to use in their gardens. Being able to see the end result of collecting food waste can be really satisfying and can help spawn further efforts.

3. Improve Company's Sustainability Image

Being a sustainable workplace can have long-term positive effects on your work culture and your public reputation. Employees that may not have previously been aware of food waste issues or sustainability, in general, have the ability to learn more about it and spread it into their own lives.

Also, collecting organics in the workplace is a really easy sustainable action you can take. It costs very little and can have a big impact. You can promote it as real, sustainable action without the need to greenwash or exaggerate. While it’s by no means the only action you should take to become more sustainable, it is a great step in the right direction.

If you’re interested in composting at home, check out our guide to building a home compost here.

4. Be Ahead of Government Regulations

Some governments, like New Zealand, have proposed making food waste separation a requirement for businesses in an effort to decrease landfill emissions by nearly 40% by 2030. While this proposal is still in the development and consultation stage, it may require all businesses to separate food scraps or generally prohibit this type of waste from landfills.

New Zealand is not the only country that has proposed such action. Slovenia already has a law in place, and the EU is collectively looking into food waste regulations as well. No matter where your business is located, separating food waste now allows you to be ahead of the curve, especially as governments around the world look to tackle this huge problem.

What Can Be Collected as Organics

If you decide to implement an organics collection in your workplace, it’s important to understand exactly what can and can’t go into your bin. Select a waste provider that offers the most robust collection available to have the biggest impact.

What can be composted will vary depending on the company that collects your organics, as they may have specific rules in place, but most companies accept:

  • Fruits and vegetable peels
  • Coffee and loose leaf teas
  • Bread and grain products
  • Eggshells
  • Beans and nuts

Items such as single-use chopsticks, corks, teabags, unbleached napkins and paper towels are often also able to be captured and broken down with organics, as long as they aren’t coated with plastics or other chemicals.

Additionally, some companies may also accept dairy and meat products, but it depends on their specific composting process, so double-check before collecting them.

Innocent Packaging March 2019 Final Selects 99 Compostable packaging made from cornstarch by Innocent Packaging

A Note on Compostable Packaging

With the growing awareness of how much waste is being sent to landfill, many companies are introducing compostable products, particularly for single-use food packaging. These may look and feel like plastic or may have a papery feel. While these are great steps to help ease our reliance on single-use plastics, they aren’t always compostable.

Compostable plastics such as PLA require high heat in an industrial composter in order to break down properly. These include biodegradable plastics and compostable coffee cups that are lined with bioplastic, as shown above. Not all composting companies will accept these, so double-check with your providers before adding them to the organic bin.

Compostable materials made from cornstarch and other plant materials that look and feel like paper are usually widely accepted by composting companies. Having an organics bin means that this packaging can be captured and processed correctly, instead of going to landfill.

Remember to check with your waste provider/organics collector about their collection requirements, and ensure you know what materials they collect as every provider is different. And if in doubt, through it out, as you don’t want to contaminate your compost with non-compostable products.

The Bottom Line

Collecting organic materials in the workplace is a no-brainer. It’s a simple and effective sustainable action you can take to reduce your workplace emissions, work toward zero waste, and stay ahead of regulations.

Plus, it allows you to promote the sustainable values that matter to both your employees and your customers and shows you’re doing something to be a leader in the space.

Sixty Green Organics Touch Concerned about odours? Methods touch (closed lids) contain odours + ensure your collection frequency is right for your facility.

Ready to Start Collecting Organics in Your Workplace?

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