by Nida Mufti for SUST 240
There is no denying that food waste is a major environmental problem. An alarming amount of food waste is dumped into municipal landfills, causing the detrimental greenhouse gas methane to be released into our atmosphere. A recent report estimates that the U.S. produces about 60 million metric tons of retail and consumer food waste, of which 32 million metric tons ends up in municipal landfills.
Chicago’s restaurant industry is guilty of throwing out a great proportion of unused food. According to Sarah Hiddler’s article posted on Illinois Food Scrap Coalition, on November 11th, 2014, “It is estimated that on average, 10% of food purchased by restaurants is thrown away. Think about that: if your restaurant buys $100,000 worth of food in a year, $10,000 of what you spend is tossed into the trash!” Needless to say, that’s a devastating amount of food being thrown away that could instead be used for composting.
A vital process of composting is to monitor the temperature of the Bio-Bins. (Shown above: Michael Flood of Flood Brothers Disposal & Recycling Services, photo courtesy of Rich Nickel from the Daily Herald.)
Fortunately, there are companies such as Flood Brothers who are genuinely trying to make a difference by composting and minimizing the amount of food waste sent to landfills. Flood Brothers Disposal & Recycling Services was established in 1930 and is one of the last family-owned and independently operated disposal and recycling businesses in the Chicago area. The company thrives to care for the environment, its employees and customers. According to Rich Nickel’s article posted on the Daily Herald on March 17th, “In a continuing effort to improve waste recycling in our communities a test program is under way at the Flood Brothers plant to recycle food waste in a innovative way.”
Flood Brothers partnered up with Chicagoland restaurants, food service organizations, and grocery stores to collect food scraps and organic materials. Thereafter, the scraps are placed in vermicomposting Bio-Bins. Nickel states, “Compost is very versatile. It can be used immediately or stored for a later gardening or planting season. Compost can be directly mixed into soil or used as a rich top dressing for indoor and outdoor plants.”
I was curious to learn how the testing phase was going and contacted Brian Flood, owner of Flood Brothers. One of the reasons Mr. Flood and his company started composting is “because everybody wants to get out of the regular way of disposing trash.” It was important for the company to make strides forward by offering services to divert food waste from landfills. Mr. Flood stated, “The testing phase is going well. We realized [the] breakdown is more difficult than we thought; it’s a slow process, but it’s going very well. We’ve been working with food processor companies to improve methods and in just one month we’ve been able to keep 10 tons of food waste out of the landfill.”
Compost: organic matter added to soil nourishes gardens and improves plant growth.
Clearly, Flood Brothers is headed in the right direction to help make a difference in the way food waste is disposed. Nickel states, “After the testing phase of the program is complete, Flood Brothers plans to increase the number of Bio-Bins and capability for composting. The compost will then be available to customers at a nominal cost.” Customers can then use the compost for natural and healthy methods of gardening.
If you would like more information about Flood Brothers Disposal & Recycling Bio-Bins composting program please visit floodbrothersdisposal.com.
Each week during the Fall 2014 / Spring 2015 semesters, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 240 Waste classes at Roosevelt University contribute blog posts on urban and suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.