Commercial food waste grants
King County Solid Waste Division has awarded seven commercial food waste grants for projects that aim to reduce edible and/or non-edible food waste generated by the commercial sector (non-residential) within King County (excluding Seattle).
Project successes will support King County goals to
- increase the countywide recycling rate from 53 percent to 70 percent by 2020 (The 2017 King County Strategic Climate Action Plan).
- extend the life of the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill.
- Achieve Zero Waste of Resources by 2030.
Additional grants for the 2019/2020 grant period will be posted after they have been awarded. The solicitation for grant proposals ended July 2, 2019.
Grant recipient: Operation Sack Lunch (OSL)
Grant amount: $100,000
Grant period: February 2018 – June 2019
The goal of this program was to add 26 new commercial food generators as food donors and rescue and redistribute 300,000 pounds from those generators that would otherwise be slated for the waste stream. To support this goal, grant funding for this program provided for additional drivers and the development of a software application (app).
The app is a matching tool that can quantify pounds of food saved from the waste stream by location, allowing OSL to clearly identify donors and to accurately calculate the pounds of food recovered. The success of this app will allow OSL's FIM program to expand its food recovery capacity into areas of King County that it has not yet reached.
- 28 food donors added, including schools
- 153,305 pounds of donated food collected. In addition to packaged food, OSL accepts prepared and perishable foods that were in safe temperature zones and not were not in contact with the public. Only by food handlers (chefs, cooks, etc.) to ensure that the food is safe for reuse.
- Developed app as a matching tool that identifies and connects OSL's food rescue program with restaurants, grocers, farms and other food distributing organizations that have food to donate and tracks the pounds of food recovered.
- The success of this app will allow OSL's FIM program to expand its food recovery capacity into areas of King County that it has not yet reached. The app will be shared with other meal program organizations to provide to their donors, which will create a web of connections between donors and emergency meal programs throughout King County.
- Though OSL has increased its storage capacities and number of food collection truck drivers, it has reached its logistical limit to acquire more donors with the current number of staff and vehicles.
- The expansion of food rescue via the grant has revealed underlying limitations for rescuing food limited storage capacity. This has sparked interest and exploration in SWD-owned cooler units at Fisher Mill to acquire large scale storage to receive and hold more food in a short amount of time.
- The app was given to current donors and a select few new potential donors during the grant project but will not be more widely promoted until greater capacity to accept and store food is in place.
Information above as of June 2019. Final grant report in progress and will be posted here when available. For more information, contact Karen May online or at 206-477-5281.
Grant recipient: Impact Bioenergy (IB)
Grant amount: $29,982
Grant period: June 2016 – October, 2018
This project's goal was to demonstrate the diversion of small business organics from the solid waste system and conversion of that resource into renewable energy and liquid soil amendment for application on agricultural land.
The specific focus of this project was to document the commercial value of anaerobically digested food waste and how it can be used beneficially within a community, avoiding trucking, export from the county, and the associated greenhouse gas emissions and loss of soil carbon. The intended approach for this project was to fully integrate zero waste, renewable energy, soil tilth, food production, diversity and support of people that have less equity and social influence in our community.
Commercial food waste was collected from Schilling Cider (Auburn), the Auburn Food Bank and Quarter Chute Café (Auburn). Liquid soil amendment was applied at Seattle Tilth's Red Barn Ranch Farm Incubator (Auburn) and 21 Acres (Woodinville).
- Food waste diverted for processing via anaerobic digestion: 8,241lbs
NOTE: Though useful field data was collected, the scope of the grant timeline, coupled with the unanticipated need to move the field experiment to a second field site during the grant period, prevented measurement of project benefits. Long-term, consistent applications and measurements are needed to collect significant data and interpret the commercial value of AD food waste and how it can be utilized within a community. However, direct costs and associated greenhouse gas emissions were mitigated because of the project's activities, minimizing the carbon footprint of the diverted and prevented waste that would otherwise have required trucking to a compost facility or landfill.
- The primary benefit of this project was to make the local Auburn Food Bank more resilient and sustainable by helping them avoid food waste collection, hauling, and processing/disposal fees.
- This project demonstrated an alternative to large centralized processing, bringing resource management closer to the waste generator. Generally, this is considered a more socially just way of managing waste.
- IB believes the localized nature of this concept helps any group of people grow healthy food locally with less chemical exposure and to become more self-reliant. This speaks directly to addressing problem of urban food deserts.
Grant recipient: City of Auburn
Grant amount: $29,990
Grant period: August 2016 – July 2018
The goal of this project was to increase diversion of food waste from moderate to large food generating businesses in the city to local composting facilities and/or organizations that provide food for low income residents in Auburn.
The city encouraged businesses to enhance existing food waste prevention, donation or composting programs or start a new program by offering to provide education and training about best practices for waste prevention, composting food waste and/or donation of edible food products. Businesses contacted included kitchen departments, restaurants, food manufacturers and distributors, grocery stores and non-profit food donation locations in the city.
- 626 businesses contacted, 22 businesses signed up for composting (18 continue)
- 9,156 tons diverted for composting
- 111 tons rescued
- Many businesses do not want to pay for composting, despite garbage volume reduction and cost savings. Concerns: additional work for staff, space for containers, contaminated bins being serviced as garbage (a cost).
- Outreach efforts to encourage compost collection services are not sustainable without funding (very time-consuming to recruit, train, establish composting accounts). Mandatory collection or embedded rates are needed to boost compost collection, as in the cities of Seattle and Kirkland.
Grant Recipient: Cedar Grove Composting, Inc. (CG)
Grant amount: $30,000
Grant period: June 2016 – July 2018
This project's goal was to increase diversion of commercial food waste from landfill disposal by focusing on restaurants and farmer's markets in economically and culturally diverse cities in suburban King County.
Cedar Grove Composting, Inc. (CG) intended to form partnerships with 10 restaurants, with a preference for those whose owners are people of color, foreign born and/or whose primary language is not English, to conduct restaurant waste audits and implement customized food waste recycling programs.
The project also worked with the Burien Farmer's Market and Renton Farmer's Market to provide signage to market vendors and training on best practices for farmer's market vendor composting to maximize food waste diversion.
- Out of 100 contacted, CG partnered with 13 restaurants and 2 farmers markets.
- 313 tons of food waste diverted from the landfill for composting.
- Dumpsters in high traffic areas and illegal dumping presents a major contamination problem.
- For the majority, the small difference in price between composting and garbage didn't outweigh the added work and expense to train staff and set up new food waste collection bins for composting. Some businesses had difficulty downsizing garbage, even after composting. The price of compostable packaging and bags outweighed savings over downsizing garbage.
- The grant helped reach areas and potential customers that might have otherwise been overlooked.
- Signage in different languages was crucial to communicating and creating a platform for comfortable conversations.
- Data from waste audits provided helpful insight to businesses.
Grant recipient: Impact Bioenergy (IB)
Grant amount: $30,057
Grant period: June 2016 – September 2018
This project goals were to 1) create and utilize a software tool to facilitate the diversion of edible and inedible food waste from disposal, 2) conduct a feedstock assessment, and 3) conduct a feasibility study to establish feasibility, gather requirements and design a community-digester operating system for Vashon Island, which can also serve as a template for others.
The project also aimed to provide a mechanism for Vashon Island to develop Community Supported Biocycling® (CSB®) – an alternative, locally based economic model of production and distribution. CSB is designed to close the loop on the Community Supported Agriculture movement by integrating co-products and services into the hyperlocal food system, such as low-carbon fuel vehicle sharing and a liquid organic fertilizer co-product of the food waste anaerobic digestion process.
- IB estimates that they can process 980 tons per year, most from five top generators (including VI School District). Feasibility study revealed that about 1,439 tons/year could be generated from the Vashon Island's top five source-separated organics generators.
- Founded Vashon Bioenergy Farm, LLC, demo AD project made possible with King County and state grant funding and loans, whereby IB has designed, built and will own, operate and maintain the first AD 185-2 RNG series NAUTILUS microdigester.
- Partnered with Island Spring Organics to site demo project for community-scale bioenergy project. Ribbon cutting, commissioning and bioreactor ramp-up took place in April 2019.
- Throughout 2019, key lessons will be learned from operating and performing year-round growth trials.
- Economic rather than technical viability is the biggest uncertainty hampering repeatability of decentralized AD (dependent on sustainable and marketable value streams). More certainty is needed regarding the applicability, short and long-term efficacy, shelf stability and fair market value of coproducts.
- It is as prolonged maturation cycle to bring a completely new production system into the market and generate sustainable revenue streams. This grant served as a seed to implement a road map for project developers, system operators and owners to emulate and leverage lessons learned.
- The NAUTILUS system is designed to "upcycle" up to 8,000 lbs. per day. Impact Bioenergy expects to seed the system in June 2019, in which case ramp-up would happen through summer 2019 and the 12-month demonstration would wrap-up sometime during the summer of 2020. Results of the demonstration will help determine whether to relocate the system from its present location (Island Springs Organics). Either way, building more AD capacity with integrated aerobic components seems to be promising.
Grant recipient: City of Federal Way
Grant amount: $24,500
Grant period: February 2018 – June 2019
The goals of this project were to: 1) increase diversion of food waste generated by food service establishments from the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill by supporting new food rescue and composting programs, and 2) increase edible food donations to hunger-relief organizations.
The city worked with food services establishments, including restaurants, grocery stores, school districts and food distributors to support at least 15 new food diversion/food rescue or composting programs with the goal of diverting at least 10 tons of edible food from the landfill. The city will also work with local hunger-relief organizations to build their capacity to accept edible food donations.
An outreach and education campaign were developed for food service establishments, and they will be provided with reusable containers to store edible food for collection or to start composting programs. Hunger-relief organizations received containers and other durable supplies to transport and store edible food, as well as help recruiting additional volunteers to pick up and serve donated food.
- 277 food service establishments and 14 hunger relief organizations contacted for food donation/pickup.
- 20 food service establishments signed up for food donation.
- 11 schools and one nonprofit organization recruited for food pickup and distribution.
- 1.9 tons diverted
- Identified storage as a barrier to food rescue for hunger relief organizations.
- Translation services added to contract to better communicate with non-English speaking food service establishments.
- One of the core challenges identified by the City is the need for someone to coordinate food pickup and delivery among multiple feeding programs and food service establishments. Each has their own schedule, food restrictions/targets, and varying levels of staff support. A roving food bank staff member position should be funded which could be housed at one foodbank and coordinate among the food generators and the non-profits.
Information above as of June 2019. Final grant report in progress and will be posted here when available. For more information, contact Karen May online or at 206-477-5281
Grant recipient: Divert
Grant amount: $40,000
Grant period: April 2018 – February 2019
Divert's goal for this project was to leverage their existing technology and processes to: 1) identify and quantify volumes and types of food that go unsold, and 2) identify the likely root causes of food waste.
Divert partnered with Food Lifeline (food rescue organization) to measure and reduce wasted food generated by select stores within King County, while increasing food donations in support of Food Lifeline's Grocery Rescue program.
- Increased average monthly food donations from Safeway stores (partner) by 1-10%. Before the study (baseline), stores were donating on average 7,000 pounds per month. A 10 percent increase (from email notifications) yielded an additional 700 pounds of food donated each month, which is the equivalent of about 580 meals per month. Multiplied out by the number of stores in the study (40 King County stores) yielded over 23,000 additional meals per month.
- Divert's program to automate direct-to-store email alerts that quantify and show the composition of wasted food allowed stores to take steps to reduce food waste and increase donations.
- Clear communication between donators and food banks and among donator staff regarding donation guidelines is essential to minimize food waste and maximize donatable food.
- Disconnect between food need and availability: weekends are often when generators most need food pickups, yet food rescue programs may not pick up at that time causing stores to recycle food that is otherwise eligible for donation.
- Limited time by donator management to monitor donated food and provide feedback to staff can result in food waste or lost opportunities to donate more food.