Every year, Americans waste about 150 billion pounds of food. That’s a lot of uneaten French fries and pizza crusts. And unfortunately most of it ends up in landfills, which is not great for the environment.
Every restaurant – the Gardner Ale House included – has to contend with organic waste material. That’s a fancy, clean-sounding term for all the rinds, peels, fatty bits, and leftovers that come from commercial kitchens and customer plates. In fact, here at the Ale House, we generate something like 60 tons of organics annually from our kitchen – in the beginning, much of it going out the back door into the dumpster. And that just seemed wrong. That’s why we decided back in 2012 to do something about it.
Our owner and president Rick Walton knew there had to be a better way to deal with all that organic waste, so he started making some phone calls. He got in touch with the Center for Eco Technology in Florence, MA and the Devens Eco-Efficiency Center, who told him about several eco-friendly food waste reduction programs, including recycling organic waste into animal feed.
And that gave Rick an idea.
He got in touch with G.W. Shaw & Son, a solid waste disposal and recycling company in southern New Hampshire. What makes them unique is the pig farm they own and operate – several thousand pigs, fed from the organic waste materials coming out of local food service companies. And that’s now where the bulk of our food waste goes – straight from our kitchen and recycling containers to a lot of hungry pigs. The result? Seventy-two percent of our organic waste is now recycled as animal feed. Another significant percentage goes to a bio-recycling firm that converts things like waste cooking oil into biofuel. Not bad, huh?
But wait, it gets even better. We’re not only recycling our food waste, we’re putting the spent barley malt from our Moon Hill Brewing operation to good use feeding pigs in Ashburnham, MA. Twenty-six tons of it annually. That’s even more happy pigs.
Apparently we stumbled upon a good idea, because The Commonwealth of Massachusetts now requires retail food service businesses to compost or otherwise recycle organic food waste if they’re producing more than one ton of it per week. Truth be told, we didn’t pioneer the idea, but we were helping lead the way here in Massachusetts, which is why other businesses and conservation groups came to tour our facility and learn how we developed and implemented our food waste management program.
We feel pretty good about that. And about feeding all those pigs.