Organics Feasibility Study

In the United States, it is estimated that about 30% of all food is wasted. This accounts for about 20% of trash collected in the state by weight. The City of Red Wing received grant funding from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to look at the waste generated in the region to determine the economic and environmental feasibility of food scrap composting programs. The funds allocated to the City by the State will be used to determine the viability of an organics collection and composting program. This does not imply implementation of an organics program.

Food scrap composting is not the same as the yard waste composting that the City already operates. Food scraps can't be placed with yard waste and typically need to be managed separately. Recovering food scraps from trash and composting provides a number of health, environmental, and economic benefits that not everyone is aware of. Some examples are listed below:

  • Organic waste in landfills generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. By composting wasted food and other organics, methane emissions are significantly reduced.
  • Compost reduces and in some cases eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Compost promotes higher yields of agricultural crops.
  • Compost can help aid reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by improving contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils.
  • Compost can be used to remediate soils contaminated by hazardous waste in a cost effective manner.
  • Compost can provide cost savings over conventional soil, water and air pollution remediation technologies, where applicable.
  • Compost enhances water retention in soils.
  • Compost provides carbon sequestration.

Please keep in mind that this process has only just began and there is still a tremendous amount of information to gather and review in the coming months. Making the decision to move forward or remain with the status quo requires a comprehensive set of facts and this will be the focus of this study over the next 12-14 months. Below is a brief summary of some of the tasks and steps that will be reviewed in this feasibility study. 

  • How much organic food waste is actually out there?
    • An audit of available volumes of organics is in progress to determine:
      • What types of organic waste there is and what is the source?
  • Is there a need? (outreach survey and public feedback) 
    • Residential survey in progress. Develop public education materials. 
    • Develop a report to disseminate survey findings.
  • How would we collect the organics? 
    • Review of organics collection options
    • Can/bin curbside collection, durable bag collection, drop-site
    • Voluntary participation systems versus citywide
  • Evaluation of possible compost sites
    • Could we compost organics at the Waste Campus or elsewhere in Red Wing? Alternative sites in the region?
  • Evaluate MPCA permit requirements/environmental impacts
    • Review relative ESAs
  • How much is this going to cost for each of the options to be considered?
    • Costs to residential and business participants for collection
    • Cost analysis of organics processing options
  • Present findings and recommendations

Successful programs are the result of good information developed by unbiased entities and with sufficient resources to conduct a comprehensive review. This is a process that will be conducted over the course of the next 12-14 months. The City is serious about making choices based on fact and reason. There will be no intention of moving forward with a program that does not include public support, economic benefit, and positive environmental outcomes that are demonstrable.