Diverting organic materials from MSW by reducing, recycling, and composting is gaining interest in various states. There are many factors to consider in the planning, development, and operations of organics management facilities. A database-GIS market analyzer is a good way to understand the potential Food Waste Generator (FWG) sector, type of feedstock, and location factors.
By Debra C. Darby and Aaron Weier

Solid waste facilities around the country, most notably on the East and West coasts, are coming under pressure to adapt to organics legislation that seeks to divert organics, predominantly commercial food waste, from the municipal solid waste stream.

Organics recycling facility developers, solid waste facility operators, haulers, municipalities,policy leaders, and generatorsare interested in determining and understanding the risk and opportunities associated with organics generation and diversion. A customized database can manage food waste generator data. When integrated into a geographic information system (GIS), analyses can be performed to assess the impact organics recycling might have on their operations. The market analyzer can identify food waste generators within a designated radius of the facility, estimate potential weekly tonnage, and provide a feasibility assessment of the most suitable type of organics recycling facility.

Organics is the Next Solid Waste Commodity

Around the country, states and municipalities are moving to adopt zero waste strategies. With new thinking about solid waste as a resource, organics is coming into the forefront as a largely untapped area. By diverting organics and reducing disposal, opening new markets with renewable products like compost as soil amendments and renewable energy from biogas, organics is assuming an outsized role in the paradigm shift to a more circular infrastructure and economy.

Organics is one of the primary materials under consideration for diversion legislation, even for locations that have addressed recycling or made other progress towards zero waste goals. The legislation generally puts the burden for source separation and diversion of organics to suitable recycling facilities on the commercial food waste generator. While food waste recycling has the potential to create economic and environmental benefits, codified enforcement contained in some state legislation creates even more incentives.

For example, the New Jersey Food Waste Recycling and Food Waste-to-Energy Production Act targets large commercial food waste generators, defined as those who generate more than 1 ton per week and are located within 25-road miles of an organics recycler with available processing capacity. The commercial and institutional sectors that must comply with the law include supermarkets/grocers; commercial food wholesalers, distributors, and industrial food processors; restaurants; schools, colleges and conference centers, banquet halls, casinos, and prisons. The law went into effect in April 2020 and required compliance by October 14, 2021.

Using Organics Market Analysis For Strategic Planning

A custom solution for identifying commercial food waste generators integrates into a GIS system—a spatial system that creates, manages, analyzes, and maps all types of data. The database can be queried to perform market analyses to assist with strategic planning for organics recycling developers and solid waste facilities as they assess the potential impact to their operations. Generators can also use the database to locate recyclers or demonstrate a lack of relevant options under the law. Queries can be formulated to focus on specific generator categories or reflect unique legal settings, such as waste flow regulations and environmental justice (EJ) considerations.

The variety of applications and queries can be customized to meet the specific needs of a solid waste facility planning to incorporate organics recycling and can provide a facility with a market analysis and a perspective on EJ and overburdened communities (OBC) impacts. Many solid waste facilities are located within or near EJ communities and are looking for ways to be a good neighbor through job creation, clean energy and reducing emission.

It should be noted that the assumptions used in the database are based on the hierarchy of organics recycling; edible food is donated first to people and animals, then followed by diversion for composting or anaerobic digestion (AD).

Marketing Analysis Case Study: Solid Waste Facility Client

A solid waste facility (SWF) operator conducting planning on the potential for integrating organics management into existing facilities and determining potential tonnage and facility needs recently used a GIS organics market analyzer. The SWF operators wanted to understand the biogas/organics tonnage they could lose as a result of the new commercial organics ban.

After expanding the database of commercial food waste generators to encompass the relevant area, the team conducted a market analysis to understand the opportunities for the client’s future strategic planning. The analysis considered the feasibility, costs, and social impacts associated with siting an organics management operation at the existing solid waste facility. The market analysis provided a snapshot or mapping of the geographic area, the type of large (one ton or more per week) food waste commercial generators within 25 road-miles of the facility or within the county, potential weekly tonnage, and feasibility assessment of the type of organics recycling facility that could be suitable as part of the solid waste facility.

The market analyzer was used to identify and characterize site-specific large commercial food waste generators (FWG). For example, supermarkets and large restaurant chains, estimate food waste tonnage generated, characterize potential challenges and opportunities, provide recommendations for the facility to consider, and suggest options for food collection and organics recycling technologies.

The process included a driving distance analysis to identify the Area of Interest (AOI) using the 25-road mile driving distance criteria from the facility. Note that county boundaries for solid waste is flow controlled but there is no flow control on food waste.

The work included developing layers of data, with county boundaries added for reference and visualization. Analytical layers, for example the AOIs, were added, and spatial analysis performed to identify FWGs within the AOI and calculate tonnages. The project team prepared a map outlining the county boundary and marking the 25-road mile driving distance from the facility. The AOI included the county boundary and two neighboring counties.

The project team then added information on FWGs, including supermarkets, full service restaurants (FSR), and limited service restaurants (LSR) to get a handle on potentially available commercial food waste tonnage within a 25-road mile driving distance from the facility. This provided a map with the two layers necessary for analysis: the AOI layer and the FWG layer. Using the power of spatial analysis, the FWGs within the AOI can be selected and analyzed. This provides statistics for the FWG to share with the client. It also provides information on whom to contact regarding contracts to secure the food waste, and determine the type and quantity. The information in the market analysis can be used by all facilities, large scale composters, haulers, and municipalities/policy leaders in the area.

The market analysis solution generated a summary of commercial food waste generators within the county. Table 1 presents the estimated food waste generation by each of the three categories of large commercial food waste generators of 1 ton or more per week, located within a 25-road mile driving distance of the facility gate. Seventy-seven sites generate one ton or more per week.

Table 2 presents the estimated food waste generation by each of the three categories of large commercial food waste generators that are below 1 ton per week, located within a 25-road mile driving distance of the facility gate. Based on the analysis, nineteen sites generate below one ton per week.

The marketing analysis concluded that the estimated food waste generation may not be enough tonnage to warrant investment in an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility. The tonnage, however, may be sufficient for the facility to consider seeking a permit modification to enable an existing yard waste compost site to accept food waste and perhaps implement an aerated static pile (ASP) composting pilot project. Investment in a de-packaging system would enable the facility to service nearly 70 nearby supermarkets. The analysis also recommended that the facility conduct a feasibility study to further quantify industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sectors, which are shown in the accompanying chart.

The project team has conducted other similar FWG case studies, and it is worth noting that the analytical process and resulting data have been validated by a major private solid waste company.

Reaping the Benefits of Organics Diversion
Diverting organic materials from MSW by reducing, recycling, and composting is gaining interest.. There are many factors to consider in the planning, development, and operations of organics management facilities. A database-GIS market analyzer is a good way to understand the potential FWG sector, type of feedstock, and location factors. Doing so will help operators develop new revenue streams, satisfy the end-markets’ demand pull-through for a circular economy and help reap the many benefits of compost use. | WA

Debra C. Darby is Manager of Organics Sustainability Solutions for Tetra Tech.

With 14 years of organics experience in the solid waste industry, Ms. Darby is a certified composting professional with a reputation as a leader in her field through her extensive background working with organics and compostable materials and driving product stewardship initiatives. She can be reached at [email protected]

Aaron Weier handles Information Technology for Tetra Tech.

Mr. Weier has 24 years of experience in developing, delivering, and supporting data driven applications. His work includes data development and management, geospatial data development and management, application development, GIS application development and support for desktop and web deliverables, 3D mapping, spatial analysis, and training. He can be reached at [email protected]