How big of a problem is food waste for both restaurants and landfills?
How big of a problem is food waste for both restaurants and landfills?
Here's the thing: we spend about 5 to 8 billion dollars each year sending 50 million tons of food waste to landfills. We pay for that. That shows a big scope.
When farmers are going broke in this country.
So we don't need to grow millions of acres of soy and corn to feed animals when there's 50 million tons of food going into landfills.
A landfill makes money by burying valuables that we haven't found a way yet to extract. And many times, we've gotten so dependent on that landfill, because it's all one container. Yet those containers are not made for containing food waste. That food starts to smell, and it's feeding the rats in New York City and all of our major metropolitan areas, it attracts flies that carry disease, and as it sits, waiting to be taken to the landfill, all you can do is take it to the landfill. And these other valuable materials like plastics, metals like aluminum, cans, paper, they get contaminated.
So not only is food waste about 20% of what we send to landfills, it's also what is preventing us from really doing a great job at getting clean recyclable material.
So to get a restaurant to become zero waste, you need a food waste solution that is above 90% recovery, and a recycling solution that now becomes so easy that you no longer need landfill.
How important is food waste for a landfill? Very. Because it keeps them in business, and as those dumpsters stink, they need to get emptied, even if they aren't full. So food waste is the number one thing preventing recycling operations from overtaking the landfill operations.
Restaurants typically pay hundreds of dollars a month to get their food waste sent to landfills. And that's why people don't want to depend on compost service, because they feel it should be less important than a landfill - they want their main invoice to be landfill, because what if i get a mess in the back of my restaurant? But the source of the rats and flies when the health inspector is looking for droppings is the dumpster they have in business today. But if they put their food waste in GrubTubs, they wouldn't have rodents. The sanitary thing to do is seal food before it turns into waste, versus mixing that with highly recyclable material and sending it to landfill.
At GrubTubs, our recycling doesn't smell, our trash doesn't smell, and our grubs don't smell. We only have to have our waste picked up once a week. It's a complete paradigm change.
Tell us a little bit more about the GrubTubs farm and the other farms you support. How do people become.a part of the farm network?
After we collect the GrubTubs filled with food from restaurants, we take them to our GrubTubs facility, where we can then sort the tubs according to what farmers need based on what we have using RFID technology.
Then we send the right GrubTubs to the right farmer as a way for them to offset their food cost, and we give those tubs to that farmer for free. Certain farmers want to grow grubs on the food within the GrubTubs: those farmers need a subscription of baby grubs so that they can gorge on the massive amount of nutrients the farmer is getting for free. And once they are fully grown, fat, and happy, they are sanitized and then fed to the chickens, pigs, or fish that the farmers are feeding.
What do you think about vegan restaurants being a part of the cycle?
I think we need more vegan and organic restaurants giving affordable, good food options in America, and there's no need for them to be able to send any of that leftover good food that can't be fed to people to a landfill. More importantly, there's a growing understanding that if we're going to grow plants sustainably without using synthetic fertilizers that the only option is by using animal manures. However a lot of animal manures like chicken litter that is made available to organic farmers is coming from conventional confined livestock operations, where there is no regulation on the amount of chemicals put into those manures by way of what is being fed to those animals. At GrubTubs, we pride ourselves in working with smaller farmers who are sometimes part of a neighborhood, and cannot run a confined animal operation. Therefore these animals have a tendency to be healthier, more sustainable, and their manures are not contaminated with antibiotics and arsenic. So we feel that by supporting local farmers, where they can actually grow good food at a good price point, they will also take better care of their animals. I've never met a farmer that wishes to be cruel to their animals, but I have witnessed an industry that has pushed farmers so desperately to turn a blind eye to horrible conditions just so they can feed their families. Happy farmer, happy animals, happy fertilizer, happy food. They are all pieces in a food chain.
Do you foresee researching other insect-based solutions to common problems?
At this point, cultivating an insect on a massive scale has only been done twice in history - the honey bee and the silkworm. And you realize that they are both cultivated because they bring something of extreme value that nothing else can bring - honey and silk.
Cultivating an insect to solve a waste problem only becomes viable when we're deeply entrenched in a wasteful society. So biomimicry is a discipline that seeks inspiration from nature to solve some of the most complex problems.
When I first explored the idea of using the Black Soldier Fly as a waste solution, I contacted a local entomologist, and the only thing they knew on that species was what pesticides to use to destroy it. Harnessing insects in a productive, industrious capacity is a fairly new idea. Most research within entomology is dedicated to eradicating insects. So before we can cultivate and find new values within the insect world, we need to shift our schools of learning to explore those opportunities at the lab level.
On the bright side, nature has developed insects to do certain tasks repetitively and extremely well. The power of insects is not so much what they do, but the numbers at which they can do so without any human intervention. There's millions of bees in colonies, there's millions of grubs in one of our grub facilities. Unfortunately when we think of insects and numbers, we always think of Biblical plagues.
By changing our thinking, we need to realize that the numbers of insects can actually play massive biological functions within our industrial ecosystem.
What would be your dream for the future?
That's a very simple answer.
I want sustainable farmers to scale so they can keep net farm income growing at a faster pace than urban real estate prices so that our farmers can be a part of our cities for hundreds of years to come.
And we can only do that by not wasting food.
How can people stay up to date with you or reach out if they want to learn more?
Follow us on social media - @grubtubs on pretty much everything (except on Instagram, @grubtubsInc). Ask@grubtubs.com.
There's no nationally recognized food waste solution company, just nationally recognized waste companies. We're changing that. One farmer at a time.