Our food waste problem

Did you know that food waste in the U.S. makes up the largest percentage of our overall solid waste at 22%?1  It’s scary to think of how high that number is, but it also presents us with a great opportunity, because starting this past Wednesday, November 3rd, the Needham Recycling Transfer Station’s (RTS) brand new food waste recycling program started!

An opportunity!

Using this program, we can keep our food waste out of the garbage stream and  generate energy, reducing the amount of greenhouse gases we are producing.  This program is available to all Needham residents for free. Even those who are already composting can benefit because this program accepts non-compostable food waste.

Here’s how the program works:

  1. Separate your solid (not liquid) food waste and place it in a bag
    • The bags are very important to prevent rodents and odors
    • Compostable bags are the most environmentally friendly option, however plastic bags will be accepted
    • See below for a list of acceptable food
  2. Bring your bags of food waste to the RTS and drop them in the green bins in the clearly labeled “Food Waste Recycling” area
    • If you don’t have an RTS sticker, they are free!  Just drop by the Town Treasurer’s Office at the Needham Town Hall, 1471 Highland Ave and pick one up!

Acceptable food waste items:

  • All food items are recyclable for this program (meats and seafoods including small bones, dairy, bread, fruit, etc.).  However, residents should NOT place the following in the food waste recycling barrels:
    • NO liquids. This includes juice/soda/milk/grease/cooking oil. Sauces, such as apple sauce, are fine provided they are not in a plastic container
    • NO non-organic materials in with the food waste (straws, utensils, cups, lids, etc.)
    • NO pet wastes
    • NO yard waste

What happens to all that food?

  • The food is picked up by our partner Agri-cycle and brought to an anaerobic digester to be turned into biogas for energy
  • Any plastic bags will be separated out by the machinery and disposed of as trash

Want to join our efforts?

Green Needham is looking for talented volunteers to help us push this important work forward.  We have a number of initiatives, including a zero waste team that is focused on local projects to reduce the town’s waste.  Two current projects for the zero waste team include:

    • Restarting the Needham Public School (NPS) organics program, in collaboration with Needham Public Schools
    • An initiative to increase the number of residents that have, and use, reusable grocery / shopping bags.  This could include working with NPS students to design signs (e.g. don’t forget your reusable bag!) to put up in key parking lots (e.g. supermarkets, Staples), to design and perhaps sell reusable bags, and generally find ways to change people’s habits around reusable bags.

We have a number of other active projects and areas of focus.  Take a look here and join us!

1. Food Loss and Waste
U.S. Food & Drug Administration

New Food Waste Recycling Program Opens at Needham’s RTS
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