The Emmet County Department of Public Works had a green idea. The result? A community-wide composting effort to reduce food waste in landfills. The Emmet County Food Scrap Recycling Program was a huge success and is expected to grow in 2016.

“Waste Not” was originally published in the March 2016 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

Lindsey Walker and her colleagues at the Emmet County Department of Public Works were dismayed when they estimated that food scraps—biodegradable, compostable food scraps—comprised nearly a third of the waste stream headed straight to local landfills.

So last fall, Emmet’s DPW teamed up with 20 Harbor Springs and Petoskey establishments, mostly targeting restaurants, to launch a food waste collection pilot program. When the 20-week program ended, more than 90,000 pounds of food waste had been diverted from the landfills, sent off to be properly composted and be put to good use in yards and gardens.

Walker, who handles recycling outreach for the DPW, says the food waste recycling program will expand in 2016 to include schools, the hospital, and other local large waste generators—and by 2018 could include residential curbside pickup for kitchen scraps.

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Photo(s) by Courtney Jerome