The Top Ten Food Waste Stories of 2014

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By now, I figured you may be getting tired of the same old “top story” retrospectives about 2014, many of which seem to contain competing themes, or even the same “fascinating” people.
Even though this is one more summary of 2014, I can pretty much guarantee you will not have seen another one like it.


Photo by Dreamstime

1. Vermont, July - Passed House Act 485 and became the second state in the U.S. to prevent commercial food waste generators of two tons or more per week from sending it to the landfill. Residential food waste ban will begin in 2020.
2. Madison, WI, August – Announced end of Curbside Collection pilot. See #4 and #5.
3. California, September - passed A.B. 1826 to reduce the amount of landfilled organics, initially affecting generators of 8 yd3/week of organics; thresholds lowered over time.
4. Madison, WI, September – 2015 budget excluded funding for a biodigester to process organics from a  curbside collection pilot, meaning material collected will be trucked  90 miles away.
5. Madison, WI, September -Announced expansion of Curbside Collection pilot to expand due to investment in screening equipment to reduce contaminants.
6. Seattle, September– City announced that beginning January 1, 2015, residents will be fined for violating the ordinance that bans them from putting food scraps in the garbage.
7. Massachusetts, October – State became the third state in nation to ban commercial food waste from being landfilled.
8. Metro Vancouver, October - Announced plans to ban organic waste from waste facilities in 2015.
9. Delaware, November- Peninsula Compost Group in Delaware shuts down operations leaving New York City without an organics processor for the new curbside collection pilot.

10. Massachusetts, November - Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) suspended trucking of food waste to Boston’s  Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant after Winthrop residents complained about traffic. Barging the material is being considered.


Photo by Dreamstime


No Bones About it

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As promised last month, this post features a video of a homeowner grinding a turkey carcass in a residential disposer.  It’s not a trick or gimmick and may make you wonder why somebody would bother … It looks like work.


Why take the time when you can just put it in the garbage can? The main reason to consider disposing of a turkey in your disposer is to eliminate odors in the trash.  Elimination of food waste in the trash has the added benefit of reducing the potential attraction to vermin.

Grinding bone is recycling at its best. Sure, bones are inert material with no value in an anaerobic digester (no gas potential) but there is meat and marrow attached, which will end up going to the wastewater treatment plant to make energy and fertilizer.

While turkey contains fat, grinding it may actually help reduce FOG buildup in sewers and plumbing. I do not encourage people to pour liquid grease down the drain but turkey fat will likely stay attached to the ground food particles. Not to mention, fats themselves do not cause calcium soaps, as previously discussed. Fats must first be hydrolyzed into free fatty acids (see Clear the FOG) before they cause the hard deposits in sewers. A study at Tongji University demonstrated that disposers can reduce fat deposits. This is probably because of the scouring action from the fine particles, or because FOG attaches to the particles instead of the pipes.

Newer disposers grind bones with no sweat and a lot less noise than they used to, so feel free to try it yourself. Remember there are no blades in a disposer and although the video shows a person pushing down over the sink opening, it’s because the turkey leg sticks out and needs coaxing to initiate the grinding action – not because the person is on defense.


Kitchen Hacks for the Holiday

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This is the time of year when we gather for a big feast. And afterwards can be a busy time for plumbers, due to the improper disposal of fats, oils and grease (FOG). Remember, fats can be liquefied with heat but solidify in plumbing and sewers after cooling. This can lead to serious issues – plumbing and sewer blockages. Please don’t use your sink, toilet, or disposer to improperly dispose of FOG. It can cause undesirable situations – sewer backups and expensive visits from the plumber.

And what about all those potato peelings and even the leftover turkey carcass from the feast? Here is an interesting new way to peel your potatoes and recycle the skins.


YouTube Video of Ingenious Method for Peeling Potatoes

Over time, potato peels have been named as the culprit in disposer-related sink backups, often by your mother and the plumber. Why? It’s not because potato peels are particularly difficult to grind. As often as not, it’s because people pack the disposer full with the peels of many potatoes and then turn on the disposer.   Sometimes without turning on the water or running it through. Or, just as bad – not letting the water run afterwards.

Modern disposers have multiple grind stages, which help alleviate jams and clogs and make grinding even more difficult waste–like the turkey carcass–easy and fast. Yes, I am telling you that with an advanced disposer you not only don’t you have to worry about potato peels but you don’t have to worry about grinding a turkey carcass either.

My hope is that your holiday season is enjoyable and uneventful (at least with regard to kitchen backups) so here are some tips for using your disposer.

  1. Turn on the water.
  2. Turn on the disposer.
  3. Slowly add food scraps to the disposer.
  4. Leave disposer on until grinding is complete.
  5. Turn off the disposer.
  6. Let the water run a few extra seconds.

Proper Use 2

I’ll have the carcass demo in my next post!

Happy Thanksgiving!