Editor's Note: This piece, written by BioHiTech Global CEO Frank E. Celli, is a response to a recent Waste Management study. The opinions represented in this piece are independent of Waste Dive's views.
Waste Management recently revealed the results of a study it conducted on the costs and benefits to recycling. Among its conclusions, the company suggested moving away from "weight-based goals." We feel it is extremely important to set the record straight, and explain exactly why using data analytics and other measurements will ensure the most effective solution for zero waste.
The use of big data technology to collect real-time operational data throughout the food waste disposal process allows visibility into the organic waste stream, which enables businesses to identify inefficiencies in food management processing and helps initiate process improvements to create immediate impacts. Measuring and optimizing waste management not only supports environmental directives, it is also key to finding operational efficiencies, enabling a business to make informed decisions about purchasing, production or other logistical needs.
Another point that was made in Waste Management’s findings was that organics processing was found to cost more per million metric ton of gas reduced. What this fails to acknowledge is that biological treatment methods, in particular aerobic digestion technology, eliminates the need to worry about emissions since they reduce waste output and there is nothing left to transport. Aerobic digesters actually convert food waste into nutrient-neutral water that is transported safely through standard sewer lines.
During Waste Management's webinar corresponding with the release of its study, one of the featured participants made the case that top-down legislation might not work for enforcing sustainable recycling and waste management because you can’t force communities to recycle. BioHiTech feels strongly that we need to push for more zero waste legislation at the local, state and federal levels in order to raise awareness and get municipalities and citizens working together towards sustainable solutions. The argument being made is that you can’t make people to recycle, so why bother?
Putting aside our critique of that shortsighted way of thinking, let us tell you why. The reason is that legislation will shine a light on the importance of recycling and serve as a guide for citizens as we work toward a brighter future for our environment. In the United States more than 34 million tons of food waste ends up in landfills each year, releasing harmful methane gas into the environment and filling up our landfills more quickly. Legislation on food waste bans and zero waste initiatives will help divert waste and preserve the environment. We want to make sure we are helping to protect our planet through better solutions for food waste disposal. We believe our approach is the right one, and we look forward to playing our part.