Armed with US$273,700 from the Walmart Foundation, the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) is set to test a cooperative model for food waste management in the industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) sector. The pilot project will attempt to translate the efficiencies of residential curbside collection to IC&I food waste management.
Project participants will be encouraged to divert food waste to a central processing facility, where it will be separated into three streams: organic waste, packaging waste and edible food. Edible food will be made available to food redistribution agencies, and waste will be diverted to appropriate beneficial uses.
This hasn’t been tried before, RCO Executive Director Jo-Anne St. Godard told EcoLog News, and it will require a culture shift among participants. The IC&I sector in Ontario is served by private contractors who compete with each other for business. Meanwhile, waste generators do not necessarily see themselves as connected to their neighbouring businesses.
“They don’t think about cost-sharing or co-managing their waste or their recyclables with their neighbour,” she says. She hopes participants will see a cost benefit from lower waste tonnage, and that haulers see an advantage in a centralized consolidation site that allows them to think differently about service and price.
Establishing a cooperative culture among participants is important because one of the project’s objectives is to gather data, RCO Project Manager Daniel Bida explained to EcoLog News. Generators and haulers will have to overcome concerns about competitive advantage and proprietary data, he says.
The project will have to resolve the challenge of having one facility consolidate three very different streams, one of which is edible food with all the rules and health considerations attached to it, says St. Godard.
Bida says that perishable food will also present regulatory and practical challenges. Edible food can become waste food if it sits for any length of time in a hot warehouse.
The RCO expects shortly to announce a host community, one that already has a fully-permitted consolidation site. “What we need is infrastructure that’s permitted that allows us to hit the ground running,” says St. Godard. After that, participants will be invited to join the pilot, which St. Godard says will run for approximately four months. Results should be available in the first quarter of 2019.