Diverting organic materials, which includes food, napkins and other compostable products, at schools is a significant opportunity to put waste to better use. Options for leftover food include food donation, food-to-animals, or organic composting programs.
Preventing food waste
In the United States, as much as 40 percent of food is wasted. Grocery stores, restaurants and institutions are responsible for about 40 percent of this waste. Wasted food is the most prevalent material in the trash by far, representing about 20 percent of the trash by weight. When food is wasted, the water, energy, fertilizer and cropland that went into producing the food is wasted, too.
You are protected from liability
Food donors are protected by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Act, which was passed into federal law in 1996. Organizations that donate food in good faith to a nonprofit for distribution to food insecure individuals are not subject to civil or criminal liability that arises from the condition of the food.
If your school does not already have a sharing table in the cafeteria, set one up! Students put unwanted food and beverages on the sharing table which other students can take.
Some schools in Hennepin County donate surplus prepared food from the kitchen, and others donate items from the cafeteria. Items that are accepted on a sharing table have the potential to be donated.
If your school is interested in pursuing food donation, the following organizations can schedule regular pick-ups for donated food.
Common organic wastes at schools
Organic waste in schools is commonly collected in the kitchen, cafeteria, restrooms, and faculty lounge.
The most common organic waste collected at schools is food waste and paper products. See the organics recycling at schools guide (PDF) for more details on materials accepted.
Organics recycling options
Donate edible food to organizations that help people in need.
Have your food processed into feed for livestock.
Have your food scraps and food-soiled paper products turned into valuable compost.
Efficiently operated organics recycling programs can pay for themselves. Significant cost savings can result from:
- Reduced trash service because pick-ups can happen less frequently.
- State and county solid waste tax exemptions. Trash is taxed at 38.5 percent, while there is no tax for organics recycling.
- Reduced tipping fee on organic waste. Tipping fees for trash are generally twice as much as organics per ton.
Learn more about organics recycling at schools
Minnesota cooperative purchasing for compostable bags and products
The State of Minnesota manages a Cooperative Purchasing Venture (PDF) that is available to public entities including school districts and charter schools. The state contracts with vendors to provide goods and services at competitive prices. Contracts are available for compostable bags, reusable and compostable food service ware, and waste and recycling containers. First, check with your purchasing department to see if you already have an agreement in place, either with a janitorial supply company or another buying cooperative.