A Charleston-area business is helping local restaurants divert waste from South Carolina landfills. Founded in 2014 by Gary Bilbro, SMART Recycling collects food waste from its clients and delivers it to a composting facility in the three areas the company serves: Charleston, Columbia and Horry County. Charleston restaurants using the 8-year-old company — Husk, Obstinate Daughter and Melfi’s, among others — are making a difference.
Bohemian Bull owner Chad Biel said SMART Recycling helps his James Island bar and restaurant divert about 2 tons of waste from the landfill every month. “We really did it because it felt like it was the right thing to do,” Biel said. “Understanding what food waste does in a landfill is a big piece of it.” Food waste is the largest category of material that ends up in municipal landfills, according to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. Once in the landfill, it emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Municipal solid waste landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“When food waste is buried like that, it doesn’t have access to oxygen,” said SMART Recycling accounting manager Meghan McGill. “And when it doesn’t have access to oxygen, it just rots.” Composting facilities break down the waste organically, producing a nutrient-rich soil supplement, McGill said. “It creates this environment where the healthy bacteria can break that down and turn it into compost.”