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Modesto restaurants to begin composting food waste

Release Date: 05/11/2006
Contact Information: Lisa Fasano 415-947-4307

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. EPA recently gave $50,000 to the city of Modesto to work with local restaurants to collect and compost food scraps and then sell the fertilizer to local landscapers, farmers and the general public.

With the help of an EPA Resource Conservation Challenge grant, the city plans to start the pilot program this summer with about 30 of the city’s estimated 1,000 restaurants to recycle waste that would have otherwise been thrown away.

Organic materials, such as food waste and yard debris, comprise approximately 30 percent of the 40 million tons of municipal solid waste generated in California each year. Modesto officials estimate that its restaurants produce roughly 15,000 tons of food waste annually. As of 2004 the city of Modesto is recycling or composting 51 percent of their waste. The city hopes to increase that rate and expect the pilot project to reuse 1,000 tons of waste per year.

“Modesto’s recycling programs just got a little greener,” said Jeff Scott, director of Waste Programs for the EPA Pacific Southwest Region. “Thanks to a partnership between the city and local restaurants, a valuable resource will be recycled to enhance our environment instead of being thrown away. Composting food waste will produce valuable soil amendments rich in nutrients.”

Under the pilot program, the city’s contracted haulers will transport food waste from participating restaurants to the city’s composting facility on Jennings Road. Once there, workers will sort the waste in piles and aerate the materials regularly for proper decomposition before reselling as fertilizer.

Improving municipal recycling programs helps divert useful materials including food waste from landfills.

Modesto City Councilmember Kristin Olsen said, “The City of Modesto’s partnership with the restaurant industry, garbage haulers and the EPA is yet another example of the business community’s commitment to improving the quality of life in Modesto. These are the kind of partnerships we need in Modesto – the public and private sectors working together to make a better community.”

From the start of the project the city was interested in getting restaurants on board early and showing them the project is a positive addition to Modesto’s waste services. The California Restaurant Association agreed to partner on the effort to get restaurants involved after being approached by the city in March.

“Collaborations such as this are beneficial to everyone involved,” said Jot Condie, President and CEO of the California Restaurant Association. “Restaurants are often the first to jump at the chance to help out the community, or in this case, the environment.”

Modesto Solid Waste Manager Jocelyn Reed added that, “the diversion of organic materials like food waste is essential for the city to meet state waste reduction mandates. We’re thrilled to have the EPA and Restaurant Association working with us on this important project.”

The city hopes to gradually roll it out to all restaurants and eventually expand to other places that produce a lot of food waste, such as hospitals, schools and other institutions.

If you own or operate a restaurant in Modesto and are interested in being part of the commercial food waste collection pilot or in learning more, please contact Karin Rodriguez of the City of Modesto at (209) 577-5453.