In 2012, the first Southeastern Food Waste Reduction Conference was held. The North Carolina Department of Environment & Natural Resources (NC DENR) helped to plan it. The goal of the event was to get people interested in dealing with a large amount of waste that isn’t being used much.

In the same year, a study by the NC DENR found that the Tar Heel state produced more than 1.2 million tones of food waste each year, about half of which came from homes and the other half from food Restaurant. Even though few commercial food waste was being saved, it was clear that there was still a long way to go.

This year, NC DENR is again helping to fund the Food Recovery Summit (Summit) in Charleston, South Carolina, Nov 16–18. The goal of the Summit is to speed up efforts to reduce food waste and find other ways to use it (see box). Since last conference three years ago, there has been more interest and activity in North Carolina around food recovery.

Food recovery is picking up speed. There are new projects to deal with food waste at home, the infrastructure for composting is growing, and supermarkets are making great strides.

In addition to a strongest network of food bank, there are more and more food rescue groups in many of the state’s cities. Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (IFFS) in Raleigh is a great example. It has pick-up routes that serve restaurants, cafeterias, and other places that have leftover food that people can eat.

IFFS will be aspects at the Summit. Along with its rescue work, it also helps people who are hungry by teaching them how to cook and by running teaching farms that provide fresh local food to local soup kitchens & children’s programmes.

Capacity For Processing

Because not all of the extra food that is made can be used to feed people, North Carolina is relying more and more on building a commercial composting infrastructure to get rid of more waste. Large commercial composters like McGill Environmental & Brooks Contractor in the Raleigh-Durham area and Wallace Farms & Earth Farm in the Charlotte region serve the two largest cities in the state pretty well.

Brooks Contractors & Earth Farms both have services that collect food waste from businesses, factories, and other institutions. Smaller composters with built-in collection services, like Danny’s Dumpster in Asheville & Gallins Farms near Winston-Salem, are making it possible to divert waste from landfills to more markets.

Composting food waste is still a popular business idea, and it is beginning to have an effect. In 2014, the most recent year for which state data is available, composters got about 31,500 tones of food waste. This is a ten percent increase from the year before. With companies like SMART Recycling & Food FWD expanding their food waste collection services, the company of food recovery is picking up speed.

AD, or digestion without oxygen, is also gaining ground. Just east of Raleigh, on a farm called Full Circle, they are actively looking for commercial & industrial food waste to add to their hog manure digester. With power purchase agreement in place, BlueSphere is building a big AD plant in Charlotte and wants to get a wide range of organic streams, such as food waste, to use in the plant. Together, these digesters are allowed to handle about 565 tones per day.

When you add in the commercial composters, these facility have a much bigger need for food waste than what is being collected at the moment. Animal feeding options are also not being used on a large scale in a way that meets the material demand.