Recent reporting on food waste reduction and diversion at hotels

Nathalie Basha for Spectrum News 1 recently reported on the use of an on-site in-vessel composting system from Dyrt at Santa Monica’s Fairmont Miramar Hotel. The hotel’s restaurant generates 40-50 pounds of food waste each day. The hotel acquired the composting system in response to California’s SB 1383, which went effect in January 2024. The legislation mandates a 75% reduction of organic waste to landfills by 2025.

Read the full story and watch the associated video at Learn more about Dyrt at

Esther Hertzfeld reported for Hotel Management on 2/15/24 that two Marriott hotels in Costa Rica had reduced food waste by 25% through the implementation of Leanpath’s food waste tracking system. “This significant pace of food waste reduction results puts the hotels in line to easily meet Marriott International’s Serve 360 corporate-wide sustainability goal of cutting food waste in half by 2025…Leanpath’s food waste tracking devices allow high-production food and beverage operations to understand what food is being wasted and why. Leanpath’s analytics platform identifies high-impact opportunities for food waste reduction and sets automated goals to break a large food waste problem into manageable wins. Most kitchens cut their food waste in half with Leanpath within a year, leading to significant financial and environmental savings, according to the company.”

Read the full story at Learn more about Leanpath at

Also, be sure to check out the new “Hospitality” section of this website for additional resources relevant to this sector!

Composting at home: videos, upcoming webinars, & other resources for beginners

In many parts of Illinois (and the United States, for that matter), there is limited access to commercial composting hauling or drop-off services. Meanwhile, in 2018 (the latest year for which an analysis of municipal solid waste is available), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that “more food reached landfills and combustion facilities than any other single material in our everyday trash (24 percent of the amount landfilled and 22 percent of the amount combusted with energy recovery).”  In that same year, EPA estimated that “63 million tons of wasted food were generated in the commercial, institutional, and residential sectors.”

Obviously, our country has a great deal of room for improvement surrounding this issue. We need to find ways to prevent food from becoming waste in the first place, but when that is unavoidable, we need to develop adequate infrastructure, including composting facilities, to deal with the sustainable management of food waste. Illinois residents can check the Illinois Food Scrap and Composting Coalition (IFSCC) website for a list of compost hauling services, but if you find there aren’t good options near you, then you can compost at home–even if you don’t have a yard! A colleague of mine recently noted that she intends to begin home composting this year and has accumulated several articles and links to websites that she has yet to process. I applaud her determination, but I also thought it would be great to compile some resources to help her and other individuals who want to do their part to keep food waste out of landfills via composting, but who might not have time to wade through lots of reading material, or who experience various situations (such as living in an apartment) that at first glance could make composting seem like an unattainable goal. In this post, I want to share some resources to make the lives of beginning or aspiring home composters as simple as possible.

 Register for SWALCO’s April 12th Webinar to learn the basics

SWALCO flyer
Click the image above to view SWALCO’s event flyer.

The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO) is currently offering its second annual Garden Learning Series covering everything from starting plants from seeds to composting. Workshops are offered in collaboration with the University of Illinois Extension and Master Gardeners with funding from the USDA and will be held the second Wednesday of the month from 6:00-7:30 PM Central. The best part is that all workshops are virtual, FREE for participants, and open to anyone, not just residents of Lake County. On April 12, 2023, they’re presenting “Composting Basics, Benefits, & Beyond.” The workshops will NOT be recorded, so if you’re free the evening of the 12th, be sure to tune in to learn from experts and have the opportunity to ask questions! Register at

Videos to guide your efforts

Sometimes it’s just easier and quicker to watch a video than to read through all the articles and websites you’ve bookmarked on a subject. Below are some videos to guide you through various forms of composting so you can pick the method that will work best for you.

  • 6 Different Ways to Compost, No Matter Where You Live: This Epic Gardening video covers hot (rapid) composting, cold (slower, more passive) composting, compost tumblers, worm composting (aka vermicomposting), bokashi (good option for apartment dwellers), and direct burying of food scraps.
  • Bokashi Composting from Start to Finish (DIY Bokashi Bucket): Another Epic Gardening video, diving deeply into bokashi, a composting method with which many people are unfamiliar.
  • LAZY Composting (Low-Effort Compost):  Tips for hot and cold (or passive) composting.
  • How to Compost on a Balcony: Not everyone has a yard, so this is another resource that would be great for apartment dwellers. This could also work on a patio or corner of a small yard.
  • Simple Compost Bin Design Indoor: Outdoor Apartment Friendly: Another interesting video for apartment dwellers, illustrating how large, stacked, terra cotta pots can be used for composting in both indoor and outdoor settings.
  • IFSC (now renamed IFSCC) Member Video Highlights Home Composting:  This blog post includes an embedded video in which Kate Caldwell illustrates her own composting setup, which includes hot composting methods. If you’re interested in compost tumblers, this may be useful for you.
  • Worm Composting: This University of Maine video shows you how to make a DIY worm bin using some plastic storage tubs. This is another great indoor option for composting at home.
  • Worm Towers from 5 gallon buckets This video illustrates an easy DIY option for creating an in-ground worm bin within garden beds. You can also check out this vlogger’s update video on harvesting worm casting from such bins:

Additional Resources

Good luck with your efforts! Remember that if one method doesn’t work well for you, there are many ways to compost at home, so don’t give up! Try another method, and focus on having fun in your garden.

Recent case studies: Composting at schools & universities

We Compost logo from IFSCC.

Below are some recent examples of composting programs at K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. If you’re in IL and your school is composting on-site or via a commercial composting program, I encourage you to seek out “We Compost” recognition via the Illinois Food Scrap & Composting Coalition (IFSCC). The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) is a proud organizational member! Learn more at and check out the list of IL universities and schools that have already been recognized at

K-12 schools

  • Park City, UT students divert thousands of pounds of food waste through lunchtime composting program“PARK CITY, Utah — Lunchtime at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School comes with the usual din of children laughing, eating, and talking, but as the kids finish their food something different happens. Each child makes their way to plastic bins in the middle of the cafeteria and begins to sort the items left on their tray between those that can and can’t be composted. Student members of the school’s Green Team supervise their peers during this process. They help younger classmates put food and garbage into the right bins, and correct any mistakes…This is all a part of Jeremy Ranch Elementary’s composting program, which is run in collaboration with the Parent Teacher Organization, and community partners like EATS Park City, Recycle Utah, and Spoil to Soil. Similar programs have popped up in schools throughout Park City School District.” Read more at
  • Natick’s Wilson Middle school enriched with cafeteria composting program. [Massachusetts] “On their way back to class, the 5th-8th graders make their way over to bins and commence participation in the 4-week old WMS composting program. Whatever is left over on their trays, they sort for proper disposal. Items such as plastics, styrofoam containers, tin foil, and wax-coated paper plates go into the trash en route to a landfill. But thanks to the school’s new composting program, food scraps, soiled paper products, and certified compostable tableware go into bins lined with compostable bags. From there, Black Earth Compost comes to the school weekly to collects the food waste, which it turns into nutrient-rich compost…It took the leadership efforts of two WMS 8th graders to move the needle forward. Jojo Flynn and Lily Wheeler knew the local infrastructure was in place to accommodate a composting program at Wilson. After all, hundreds of Natick households were involved, plus the high school already had a successful composting program. They wondered why their school wasn’t doing the same. So Jojo and Lily took the issue up with school administration and got in contact with Natick’s Director of Sustainability, Jillian Wilson-Martin. It turns out the support was there, but the initiative needed a push from conservation-minded activists ready to get involved.” Read more at

Colleges & Universities

  • Scraps to soil: How Princeton’s food waste is recycled on and off campus. ‘Every day, Princeton students eat food in dining halls, dutifully scrape their leftovers into metal chutes labeled “Food Waste & Napkins,” and move on with their days…”A food scrap actually has a lot of value when you return it to the earth in a responsible way,” Food Systems Project Specialist Gina Talt ’15 emphasized…On campus, she manages the composting program at Princeton’s S.C.R.A.P. (Sustainable Composting Research at Princeton) Lab. The lab, affectionately known as “Scrappy,” launched in 2018 through a grant secured by the Office of Sustainability. The project operates year-round, using small-scale composting technology to process food and turn it into nutrient-dense soil to be used as fertilizer on Princeton’s grounds.’ Read more at
  • Sustainability Office’s composting program wins state award. “SUNY Oswego’s Office of Sustainability and its manager, Kate Spector, have earned the 2022 College Recycling Leadership Award from the New York State Association of Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3) for its composting project…In its first year, the composting pilot project diverted more than 80,000 pounds of food waste from landfills and incinerators, attracting many supporters and becoming implemented at all dining facilities…With this program, both pre-consumer food waste and non-donatable leftover food scraps were composted. Additionally, this program allowed for Bristol Hill Transfer Station to work towards becoming a designated organics recycling location.” Read more at

International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, September 29, 2021

Today is the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, as designated by the United Nations General Assembly Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). According to the FAO, globally, around 14 percent of food produced is lost between harvest and retail, while an estimated 17 percent of total global food production is wasted (11 percent in households, 5 percent in the foodservice, and 2 percent in retail).

When food is wasted, we’re not only wasting valuable nutrients in a world where countless people struggle with food insecurity and/or malnutrition, we’re also wasting all the resources invested in the production of that food, including water, land, labor, and capital. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), up to 40% of food in the US goes uneaten, while 1 in 8 Americans struggle to obtain the food they need.

Additionally, when food is disposed of in landfills, its decomposition within landfills produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is more powerful than carbon dioxide in terms of global warming potential, which is defined as the heat absorbed by any greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, as a multiple of the heat that would be absorbed by the same mass of carbon dioxide. According to the US EPA, methane accounts for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US.

Thus, preventing food waste, and where possible, disposing of unavoidable food waste through strategies other than landfilling (e.g. diverting to animal feed, composting, etc.) is important to fight hunger, conserve precious resources, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and combat climate change.

Take time out today to consider the amount of food that is wasted in your home or organization, and think about ways that you might prevent such wastage, as well as more responsible ways to manage surplus food or food scraps by exploring the links listed below. To learn more about the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, visit

Learn More

  • US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Facts and Figures on Food Waste, plus the 2018 Wasted Food Report.
  • Green Lunchroom Challenge Suggested Activities. Though these activities were developed with K-12 schools in mind, other institutions with foodservice operations (e.g. colleges and universities, hospitals, nursing homes, correctional facilities, etc.) may benefit from adapting these activities for their circumstances.
  • Green Lunchroom Challenge Blog: Tools to Increase Creativity and Reduce Food Waste. This blog post includes tips and tools to help consumers find recipes and suggested uses for edibles on hand that may be unfamiliar or uninspiring.
  • Save the Food. This NRDC website provides a dinner party calculator so you make just the right amount for your event, a tool for menu preparation and customized shopping lists, recipes, storage tips, and a tool to show how much money families of different sizes might save on a daily, monthly, or annual basis by reducing food waste.
  • ReFED Insights Engine. A data and solutions hub for food loss and waste, designed to provide anyone interested in food waste reduction with the information and insights they need to take meaningful action to address the problem.
  • Food Waste Reduction Toolkit for Illinois Schools. This resource from the Wasted Food Action Alliance provides guidance on measuring food waste, reducing it, recovering and redistributing it for human consumption, composting food scraps, and engaging students and the community in food waste initiatives.
  • Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC). This organization’s website includes information on why composting of food scraps is important, resources to get started composting for residents, government officials, and businesses, and ways for organizations that do compost to earn recognition through the We Compost program. The IFSC is the sponsoring organization of the IL state chapter of the US Composting Council (USCC); readers outside of IL can find their state chapter and additional resources on the USCC website.
  • Feeding America. This US nonprofit organization is comprised of a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies. Did you know that September is Hunger Action Month? Find your local food bank and learn how you can donate to help neighbors in need. Illinois residents can visit the Feeding Illinois website. Learn how IL farmers can sell food directly to food banks at

VermiCUlture promotes vermicomposting in Champaign-Urbana

VermiCUlture logo

This post originally appeared on the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC) blog. Thanks to IFSC and to Madalyn Liberman and Stuart Seputro, two of the groups’ founders, for their insights and assistance with this blog post.

“[Our project] vermiCUlture, which stands for vermicomposting in the Champaign-Urbana area, was started by myself and other Fred S. Bailey Scholar students at the University YMCA as part of the Global YMCA Youth Climate Summit in October 2020,” Madalyn Liberman told IFSC. “As part of this summit, we were tasked with creating a local solution to a climate issue with the chance to receive funding to address that issue. Our project was aimed at addressing the lack of sustainable food waste disposal options in the area by educating community members about food waste/composting and providing training and equipment for individuals to start vermicomposting in their home. We received a little over $9000 to implement this project and have been working on it since last October.”

“With the hope of involving more students on campus and to create a lasting project, we decided to become a registered student organization (RSO) at the University of Illinois this spring. The initial creators of the organization and current executive board members are Stuart Seputro (President), Lavanya Upadhyaya, Griselda Escobedo, Sophie Luijten, and Rebecca Hanks, but we have gained many more students since becoming a RSO. That will soon be showcased on our website,” said Liberman.

The student group notified CU area residents about the program through various newsletters and social media advertisements. Their initial goal was to get 50 participants to receive vermicomposting kits and training, with distribution provided on a first come, first served basis.

At this time, the group doesn’t have many metrics to share, but thus far, 48 participants have engaged with the program. “We were not able to get the full-size kits out to these 48 participants due to supply chain issues as well as issues regarding time and helping hands,” said Liberman. “Instead, we were able to start with a kickoff event with around 30 participants. These participants received mini educational kits containing 5-10 worms and were guided through creating worm bins using old food or takeout containers from their homes. This event, on April 17 and 18, 2021, allowed participants to come in and create their kit in an assembly-line style fashion with explanations about each component of the composting bin (i.e. bedding material, worms, water, etc.). While we weren’t able to get participants the full-sized kits this semester, we have actively been working with local businesses and organizations to take 3-5 gallon buckets off their hands that would otherwise be thrown away or recycled so that we can eventually upcycle them into our full-sized kits. Thus far we have diverted about 35-40 buckets that will be turned into vermicomposting bins. We also hope to source other waste materials for kits in the future, such as shredded paper/cardboard, coffee grounds or chaff from local coffee shops, or other materials that can be used in the creation of vermicomposting kits while also helping to reduce waste. Additionally, I hope in the future when we distribute full-sized kits, that we can calculate the reduced carbon emissions from our participants as well as our own carbon emissions in the sourcing and transport of products.”

VermiCUlture meeting

The group ran into a few challenges while getting this project started, which they hope to address in the future. Liberman explained, “The main challenge we ran into was obtaining worms. There are not many local worm options that have the scale of worms needed for our project (500-1000 worms are needed for one full-size bin). So we needed to ship from across the country to get these worms (we used a supplier in Georgia), which isn’t the most sustainable option. Even still, it is difficult to get a large amount of worms at once. One of our new goals is to create a local worm option by creating a small-scale worm farm in the area. This new project is still very much in the planning phase and we are unsure of how it will work exactly but we are hopeful to get it started this fall semester and make vermicomposting more available to community members. Other challenges we ran into stemmed from all of our members also being full-time students. We quickly realized that the work we needed to do to make the project a success was the kind of work someone would do for a full-time job! To help alleviate this issue, we are planning to restructure the organization and make more leadership positions so that the work is distributed in a way that full-time students can manage.”

Executive board members have met over the summer for planning purposes. With the fall semester approaching, vermiCUlture has also obtained a $10,000 grant from the University’s Student Sustainability Committee (SSC). The SSC is comprised of undergraduate and graduate students who, with the guidance of faculty and staff, allocate $1.1 million for campus sustainability project annually from two student initiated fees–the Cleaner Energy Technologies Fee and the Sustainable Campus Environment Fee. The grant will help vermiCUlture meet their original goals, address the challenges identified above, and overall expand the process of vermicomposting in the Champaign-Urbana area.

vermiculture kit preparation

While Madalyn Liberman is now off to grad-school (congratulations!) and thus, will not be involved in continued efforts in the fall semester, anyone interested in learning more or replicating this project in their own community can contact vermiCUlture President, Stuart Seputro. Also, be sure to check out their website,, and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn to monitor their progress.


US Food Loss and Waste Policy Action Plan Pitched to Congress

Screen shot of
Screen shot of


As reported in the April 8, 2021 issue of Waste Dive,

“An action plan to curb food loss and waste in the U.S. — pitched to Congress and the Biden administration this week by four organizations and supported by a host of cities, businesses and nonprofits — recommends funding infrastructure that keeps organic waste out of disposal sites by providing state- and city-level investments for measuring, rescuing and recycling it.

Led by the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), ReFED and World Wildlife Fund, the plan also stipulates that federal facilities take steps to prevent organic waste and purchase finished compost products. The organizers urge lawmakers to spur growth of compost markets among private sector buyers as well. 

The plan calls for allocating $650 million annually through at least 2030 to states and cities for organic waste recycling infrastructure and other food waste reduction strategies. It also calls for $50 million for those cities and states to pursue public-private partnerships; $50 million in grants for research and innovation in the space; $3 million annually through 2030 for consumer food waste reduction research and behavior change campaigns; and $2 million to add personnel to the Federal Interagency Food Loss and Waste Collaboration…

Signatories to the policy outline include the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the US Composting Council and Vanguard Renewables.

Currently, city offices in Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Madison, Wisconsin, have also formally supported the plan.

While the plan points to job creation, climate and food donation benefits that have resulted from more comprehensive organics laws in California, Massachusetts and Vermont, it also lays out a number of other individual steps local governments can take. They include mandating food scrap recycling, enacting pay-as-you-throw policies and increasing disposal tip fees by adding taxes per unit of trash.”

Read the full story at

See also the NRDC’s announcement of the plan and download the action plan itself at


Upcoming Webinars: ReFED to Launch Insights Engine and Roadmap to 2030

ReFED, a multi-stakeholder nonprofit organization which takes a data-driven approach to formulating and advocating for food waste solutions in the US, will be introducing new resources and data during a series of webinars next week.

The same presentation will be given on February 2, 3, and 4, 2021, at 12:00 Central Time. You may register to attend one of these presentations at

According to ReFed:

“We’re introducing two new resources that can help the food system cut food waste in half by the year 2030 – plus we’ll be releasing new data showing the extent and impact of food waste in the U.S. over the last ten years.

ReFED’s Roadmap to 2030: Reducing U.S. Food Waste by 50% looks at the entire food supply chain and identifies seven key action areas for the food system to focus its food waste reduction efforts. It also includes a detailed financial analysis to help direct the private, public, and philanthropic capital investments needed to fund them.

Our Insights Engine is an online hub for data and solutions that can help you bring a food waste reduction initiative to life, including:

– A granular analysis of food waste by sector, state, food type, cause, and impact built from more than 50 public and proprietary datasets;

– A detailed cost-benefit analysis of more than 40 food waste reduction solutions; and

– A directory of more than 700 organizations ready to partner on food waste reduction initiatives.

Food waste is a solvable problem. Join us in February to jumpstart your food waste reduction efforts – and help achieve our 2030 reduction goal.”

Register at

Learn More

ReFed: The Roadmap to Reduce US Food Waste

ReFed: Food Waste Solutions


UW-Green Bay Uses Campus Composter to Divert Food Waste from Landfill

As reported by, an Earth Flow composting system, which has been use on the University of Wisconsin Green Bay (UW-Green Bay) campus since October 2020, has thus far helped the university divert about 15,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill. The student government bought the composter using money from the campus sustainability fund.

Read the full story and watch the video at,

According to the report, food scraps are collected in five-gallon buckets from the campus foodservice operations. Studen workers add the scraps to the composter, along with two buckets of wood chips for each bucket of food scraps. The wood chips are sourced from local tree-trimming operations. When completed the compost is used in various campus gardens, and may ultimately be made available to the public.

Learn more about Earth Flow Composting Systems at

View photos of the composting system installation at Inside UW-Green Bay News:

Note that links to products or services are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by the author, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, the Prairie Research Institute, or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Seven Generations Ahead Webinar on School Waste Reduction, Sept. 2

As students head back to school in one way or another, it’s time to consider how to reduce waste related to school activities. Tomorrow, September 2 at 4 PM CT, Seven Generations Ahead, a non-profit organization based in Oak Park, IL, will host a free webinar on waste reduction for schools during COVID-19.

To register, visit

From the registration site:

“Back-to-school is going to be different this year, and reopening plans continue to evolve. Zero waste efforts will need to pivot to meet the challenges we are facing.

Join Susan Casey and Becky Brodsky from SGA’s Zero Waste Schools program and school leaders from around the country to exchange ideas and learn ways to creatively adapt zero waste practices to our new circumstances.

Contributing to the conversation:

  • Nancy Deming, K-12 Sustainability Specialist, Custodial and Nutrition Services, Oakland Unified School District
  • Dan Schnitzer, Director of Sustainability and Capital Projects, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools
  • Kate Mason-Schultz, Coordinator of Nutrition Services, Evanston/Skokie School District 65

The conversation will center around reducing waste from the classroom and food service by adapting prevention, recycling, composting, and food recovery strategies. We’ll also share ways students and families can learn how to reduce waste at home, including composting and single-use plastics reduction.”

recycling bin with milk cartons inside, screen shot from webinar registration page