Sustainability Corner: Food waste of Riderwood

By Shanna Gordon

Member, Sustainability Committee

In our home kitchens, the little scraps of food were likely an afterthought. Tossing out a couple of potato peels here or there hardly adds up, after all. However, on an industrial scale like the Riderwood kitchens, every little bit adds up to a whole lot. For this reason, Riderwood has since 2008 instituted an ever- growing food scrap recycling program that has set a standard in Montgomery County.

Very recently the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection released the findings of a case study surrounding Riderwood. The case study assessed the ability for large multi-family properties to recycle food scrap and waste efficiently. In this study, they analyzed our process of recycling food scraps, outcomes of the program, benefits of food scrap recycling, and opportunities to improve.

Our method of collection is to place all excess food from the preparation process (potato peels, gristle, etc.) as well as leftovers into a designated bin. The bin’s contents are placed into one of two 32-oz containers on a loading dock. Twice a week, Bates Trucking comes and picks up the scraps, which we receive back each year as one dump truck full of compost for our gardens.

Since 2014, we have recycled more than three million pounds of food scraps, with 1.1 million pounds in 2017 alone. As of now, 70 percent of kitchen waste is recycled, which has allowed us to reduce significantly the number of waste containers as well as waste disposal costs. The key to continued success in our program is to ensure that new employees receive proper training in food scrap recycling. As turnover occurs, we need to prepare newcomers for what will likely be an unfamiliar process. Going forward, our goal will be to increase the capacity of food scrap containers and increase the weekly pick-up rate. Many thanks to residents and staff for their help making this program such an enormous success!

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