Companies see potential in a largely untapped Columbus food waste market
Food waste recycler Viridiun hauls food scraps to Ohio Mulch in Delaware, where it is converted to compost.
Consider this the next time you eat out: Those leftover fries and lettuce scraps could one day enrich your garden or even heat your home.
The nation’s largest food-waste recycler has joined a small local hauler to pursue profits from trashed foods—transforming kitchen waste, spoiled groceries and used cooking oil into engine fuel, compost, natural gas and even electricity.
“I don’t think the surface has been touched [in Columbus] on gathering food scraps,” says Randy Abrams, sales representative for Georgia-based Viridiun, which last month opened its first Ohio office in Westerville.
Lured here by Kroger, one of its biggest clients, Viridiun believes Central Ohio holds enormous potential, even when compared with its 15-state coverage area. It’s not just the number of restaurants producing waste, Abrams says, but existing businesses including Ohio Mulch that can handle scraps.
“There are so many restaurants for us to be able to touch,” Abrams adds. “You go down to Southern states, and it’s a struggle to find places that can process food waste.”
Its new hub will allow Viridiun to pick up from mom-and-pop businesses located between stops at Kroger locations. The company is hauling from Two Caterers in Westerville and has received interest from other shops, Abrams says.
So far, that’s been the specialty of Eartha Limited, founded on the Whittier Peninsula in 2009 and currently hauling from about a dozen clients including Northstar Cafe, Katzinger’s Delicatessen and Tip-Top Kitchen & Cocktails. The company has succeeded among green-minded businesses that already recycled and composted, but owner-operator Elizabeth Lessner believes competition will help other operations see the value in diverting food from landfills.
“It’s a lot of work sometimes to convince someone to recycle food scraps,” Lessner says. “What Viridiun is able to do is actually raise the level of thinking about food scraps. There’s plenty of trash in the city.”
A look at how food waste collected from six White Castle restaurants comes full circle through a new pilot program from local recycling company Eartha Limited.
Pick up: Eartha collects food waste separated into special containers.
Buy back: White Castle purchases Green Envy for landscaping at several restaurants and its Grandview headquarters.
Break down: Scraps are transported to Ohio Mulch in Delaware and processed with peat, ground bark and sand. It’s sold roughly six months later as Green Envy compost.