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The Next Economy
Commercial Food Waste Finds New Foes in Unique Co-op Model, Veolia Marketplace

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 non-residential sector loses more than 70 percent of food waste to disposal, according to the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO).

But this waste stream also presents opportunities, prompting the RCO to trial a unique co-operative model and Veolia UK to launch an online marketplace.

The RCO, supported by a $273,700 USD grant from the Walmart Foundation, aims to apply the co-op model to ‘saving’ food instead of selling food. Where a food co-op might partner with local suppliers to make local and organic produce more accessible and affordable for its members, the new RCO co-op’s members will include local producers and processors of food waste to help divert those materials from landfills.

“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,” said Jo-Anne St. Godard, Executive Director at the 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 co-op aims to establish a host site by spring 2018 and be in operation by early summer. The Food Waste Pilot Project is expected to last six months with results published in winter of 2018. The trial’s success will be evaluated on a series of key performance indicators, such as increases in the recovery of food waste for organics recycling and edible food for donation, enhanced collection and processing of recyclable food packaging, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions and costs related to the collection and transport of materials.

“This co-operative model with commercial generators sharing collection and recycling services and costs by geographic region has never been trialed before,” St. Godard added. “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 grant received to run the program is part of the Walmart Foundation’s $15 million USD commitment to prevent food waste and support food banks.

Meanwhile, Veolia’s new marketplace, BioTrading, will be a sales and auction marketplace that connects buyers to the rest of the value chain and finds the best deal for their organic resource needs, recycling them into new products or green energy.

The platform is intended for anyone who has or requires organic resources in the UK, such as in the farming, water, construction, food and drink, anaerobic digestion, and biofuel industries. Opening an account on BioTrading is free and sellers can propose as many listings as they want for free. Successful bids/sales will be subject to a 10 percent “introduction fee” to be paid to BioTrading before the contact details of the buyer and seller are released to each other.

Veolia notes that unlike other parts of the economy, there is no price comparison or trading platform for organic resources, causing buyers and sellers to waste time and money navigating a confusing marketplace. By dealing directly, the BioTrading website will enable sellers get a good price for their product and gain maximum value from their waste and process by-products, and buyers will benefit from having access to a central platform boasting transparent and fair prices.

“Our new BioTrading website is the missing link for the UK’s organic resources and represents a real step forward in innovation. By operating as an agile trading platform it is a financial and environmental win-win for both buyer and seller,” said Raquel Carrasco, Organics and Technology Director at Veolia UK. “For the UK, it means more waste can be turned back into resources, boosting sustainability, delivering value and promoting a more circular economy.”

Veolia expects a wide range of resources to be made available on the website including food waste, food for redistribution, industrial organic by-products, agricultural wastes, biodiesel and bioethanol residues, sewage and industrial sludge and wood. To ease logistics buyers can also make use of compliant haulage services if required.