Why Commercial Buildings Should Prioritize Composting

California has long held the reputation of being a climate action leader in many fields -- one area of focus is how the state handles its organic waste. California has taken the lead on tackling the organic waste generation issue in the state, passing legislation to push people towards a zero waste future.

Commercial buildings play a significant role in moving society towards zero waste. Back in 2012, there were already 5.6 million commercial buildings in the US (CBECS), and that number is still increasing. People spend the vast majority of their time indoors, with many Americans spending as much time or more in an office building compared to their homes. Offices provide amenities like food, drinks, and more, but one impact of perks like these is that they also lead to lots of waste.

From All About Waste’s experience with commercial office buildings, more than 40% of commercial office waste in 2018 consisted of organic materials. In terms of materials generated, Organics was the single largest category, followed by Recyclables. These organic materials typically included leftover food, food scraps, paper towels, soiled paper, and coffee grounds.

While there can be many reasons why your building might not currently be composting, here are three reasons why you should start!

1. Lower contamination, lower costs

Organic materials belong in a Compost stream. However, in the absence of one, they inevitably end up in the Landfill and Recycling waste streams. In each of those waste streams, organic materials are considered to be contaminants.

Leftover foods, liquids, coffee grounds, etc. can easily contaminate valuable recyclables, such as paper and cardboard, causing them to lose their recyclability and value. Many haulers charge fees when a load of recyclables exceeds 10% contamination because it ruins the entire batch.

When organic materials go to the landfill, they produce large amounts of greenhouse gases and take up valuable space. As landfills fill up, the cost of landfilling materials will also increase drastically. You can avoid paying increased fees for landfilling materials by focusing on properly collecting compost in your building.

Make the switch - talk to your waste hauler about adding a Composting service to your building!

2. Laws are already in place: SB 1383 and AB 1826

The ball is already rolling when it comes to increasing organic material recycling in the state of California. Senate Bill 1383 has set goals for reducing the amount of organic waste ending up in landfills, including a 50% reduction by 2020 and a 75% reduction by 2025.

That’s not all, Assembly Bill 1826 utilizes a rollout plan to progressively bring more and more compost services online. Check out the implementation timeline below.

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This means that for the majority of office buildings in California, the law already requires buildings to organize compost collection services. Moving forward, CalRecycle will potentially expand the requirements in mid-2020 to include generators of 2 cubic yards per week, which will then encompass nearly all commercial buildings.

3. Composting & Recycling create jobs

Because of recent policy changes and legislation, the job outlook for composting and recycling industries is greater than ever before. CalRecycle published in a report back in 2013 that described how the increase in recycling and composting infrastructure in the state would lead to more than 14,000 new jobs as a result. Many of these jobs are directly related to waste management, like working at a composting facility, while others are indirect such as driving for food recovery operations, hauling routes, manufacturing equipment, etc.

The 2013 report findings are on an accurate trajectory for job market expansion. To achieve SB1383 goals, California must recycle 20 million tons of organic waste, double than what is currently recycled (BioCycle). CalRecycle predicts that California will need 50 to 100 more composting and anaerobic digestion facilities than what is currently in place to meet the 20 million ton reduction target -- this will evidently create a need for more positions to fulfill these operations.

Whether it’s lowering costs, keeping up with recent regulations, adding jobs to the market, or tackling climate change, capturing organic waste within commercial buildings will help reap positive benefits for your company.

All About Waste specializes in zero waste solutions and sustainability consulting to help you lower costs, reduce impacts, and communicate with stakeholders. Contact us if you are interested in of our services!

Denise Braun Ryan