Record Number of U.S. Households Have Access to Food Waste Collection
Residential access to curbside food waste collection has almost doubled in past three years; drop-off sites provide access to millions more
Emmaus, Penn. & Washington, D.C. — BioCycle and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) just released the 2017 BioCycle Residential Food Waste Collection Access Study, which tracks local governments in the U.S. that offer source-separated collection of household food waste. A survey conducted by ILSR on behalf of BioCycle from June to November 2017 identified 148 curbside collection programs serving 326 communities, and 67 food waste drop-off programs servicing 318 communities.
Over 5 million U.S. households have access to government-supported curbside collection, while 6.7 million households have access to drop-off sites for source-separated food waste. Drop-off sites range from seasonal farmers markets open 1 day a week to staffed multi-material recycling depots open 7 days a week. The 2017 BioCycle Residential Food Waste Collection Access Study only includes programs that are actively offered or supported by local government. The survey did not include the number of households served by private haulers offering subscription service independent of local government involvement. Many private operators, including bike powered enterprises, offer residential services, providing another means of access in numerous communities.
“The number of U.S. curbside collection programs for household food waste increased by 87% since BioCycle conducted the same survey in 2014,” notes Nora Goldstein, BioCycle’s Editor. “The number of households with access to collection almost doubled over that same time period — a further validation that many communities are looking at capturing the resources from our waste stream.”
“Collection of food scraps needs to be as convenient as trash collection, which for most communities means collection at curbside once a week in a specially provided bin,” according to Brenda Platt, head of ILSR’s Composting for Community Initiative and director of the 2017 survey. “Food waste recovery is critical not only to cut waste flowing to dumps and incinerators but also to save the climate.” More than 30 million tons of food scraps are disposed each year and landfills are a top source of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas.
Other cities and counties looking to replicate the success of early adopters have much to consider: which materials to accept, which types and sizes of containers to provide, whether to offer starter kits, whom to provide service, and whether households opt in to the program or automatically receive service.
“Drop-off sites for food scraps can be a great way to start,” says lead researcher, Virginia Streeter at ILSR. “Farmers markets in particular are highly visible and can grow enthusiasm and demand for citywide curbside programs.”
Data highlights from the survey include:
- All collection programs accept fruit and vegetable scraps and over 90 percent of programs accept meat, fish and dairy. The majority take paper bags and uncoated food-soiled paper.
- California leads the nation with the most households with access to curbside collection (1.74 million), followed by Washington State (980,000), New York (790,000) and Texas (400,000) — see map here.
- California also leads the nation with the number of communities that offer curbside collection of food waste (97), followed by Washington (69), Minnesota (52) and Illinois and Vermont (24).
- There are curbside food waste collection programs in 20 states, and drop-off programs in 15 states.
- Programs exist in urban, rural, and suburban communities. There is no one model as programs vary widely. Some require participation, while others are opt-in. All curbside programs provide a bin to facilitate participation.
- Food waste source separated by households for recycling primarily goes to composting facilities, although a handful of programs in the U.S. utilize anaerobic digestion facilities.
Food scrap collection is a vital part of efforts to reduce the amount of food waste disposed, but it is not the only effective method. While outside the scope of this study, a growing number of communities tie their household food waste collection programs to food waste prevention and edible food rescue programs. The growth of collection programs is one part of the larger movement towards reducing food waste.
To learn more about BioCycle and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s study of residential food waste collection programs, please schedule interviews through Nick Stumo-Langer at 612-844-1330 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Underwriting for the 2017 BioCycle Residential Food Waste Collection Access Study was provided by the Foodservice Packaging Institute and the Biodegradable Products Institute.
Published since 1960, BioCycle is the go-to magazine and website on composting, organics recycling, anaerobic digestion and renewable energy. BioCycle features how to process organic residuals such as yard trimmings, food waste, woody materials, and other source separated feedstocks into value-added products. The 2017 BioCycle Residential Food Waste Collection Access Study is the 8th survey BioCycle has published on residential access to food waste collection.
ABOUT INSTITUTE FOR LOCAL SELF-RELIANCE:
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is a national public interest organization founded in 1974 to support environmentally sound and equitable community development. ILSR provides research and technical assistance on recycling, composting, zero waste planning and implementation, decentralized clean energy, community broadband, independent businesses, and other facets of a homegrown economy.