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Recycling Council of Ontario to trial unique co-operative model to decrease food waste in the commercial sector

Project aims to find better ways to manage commercial and institutional food waste

Co-operatives are structured to meet the common needs of its members. A food co-op, for example, may offer local and organic produce, partner with local suppliers, and make it more accessible and affordable for members to buy groceries.  

The Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO), with support from a $273,700 US$ grant from the Walmart Foundation, aims to apply the co-op model with a slightly different approach: saving food instead of selling food.

According to the RCO, food waste is the single largest waste stream lost to disposal and is the leading cause of methane emissions from landfills. While many communities have successfully implemented curbside organics collection, the nonresidential sector loses more than 70 per cent of food waste to disposal.

"Municipalities have made residential organics programs effective through door to door collection efficiencies, and in-home source separation built on continuous public education and outreach," says Jo-Anne St. Godard, Executive Director, RCO. "Businesses and institutions, on the other hand, have organic material managed location by location, which eliminates standardized services the residential sector benefits from. That's why we want to trial a pre-competitive co-op model that offers simple and convenient options to recover edible food and divert compostable food waste material from disposal."

To do so, a centrally located consolidation site will serve a variety of functions for co-op members that will include industrial, commercial, and institutional properties that generate edible food and food waste, and the municipalities, organics processors, waste haulers, and food recovery agencies that will serve them:
• Receive food and food waste of any type or quantity in three streams: food waste for composting; edible foods for donation; packaged foods that require de-packaging for organics and packaging destined for recycling.
• Store and protect edible food to keep it separate, safe, and consumable until pick-up by a food recovery partner.
• Provide staging areas for de-packaging of expired or other unusable/unwanted food.
• Provide convenient pick-up location for service providers that take food and packaging materials from the site, including food recovery organizations, organic processors, and packaging recyclers.

The trial's success will be evaluated on a series of key performance indicators:

• Increased recovery of food waste for organics recycling.
• Increased recovery of edible food for donation.
• Optimized quality and reduced contamination of food scraps for organics recycling.
• Enhanced collection and processing of recyclable food packaging.
• Improved collection and storage to increase edible foods destined for donations.
• Reduced greenhouse gas emissions from collection and transport of materials between collection and final destination
• Cost reductions from transport efficiencies and avoiding disposal.

"This co-operative model with commercial generators sharing collection and recycling services and costs by geographic region has never been trialed before," continues St. Godard. "There is also significant opportunity to maintain value of food and food waste by applying circular economy principles. If we demonstrate that this approach to food waste recovery is viable with social, environmental, and economic benefits, this model can be utilized in communities large and small right across the country."

The co-op aims to establish a host site by spring 2018 and be in operation by early summer. The trial is expected to last six months with results published in winter of 2018.

"The Walmart Foundation is excited to support Recycling Council of Ontario's new and innovative approach to fighting food waste and supporting food recovery," says Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer for Walmart. "For over ten years, through philanthropic and business initiatives, Walmart has been working to reduce food waste and strengthen charitable programs to accelerate food recovery and get food to those who need it most. Today we commit to accelerating progress in Canada. We hope this grant, combined with additional grants we are making to other leading non-profits, will catalyze collective action to reduce food waste all along the food chain, from farm to fork."

This grant is part of the Walmart Foundation's $15 million USD ($19 million CAD) commitment to prevent food waste and support food banks.

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P.O. Box 83
Orangeville, ON
CA, L9W 2Z5


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