The world of food packaging has changed over the past few years.
A growing number of countries have outlawed animal products in their food packaging, making the industry a major source of waste for governments.
With meat processing plants closing and meat being processed in huge volumes, a large portion of the waste ends up in landfills.
With recycling programs in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere helping to reduce the amount of meat waste that ends up as landfurnaces, you can expect that demand for meat waste will increase over the next few years as people start to realize that their meat is contributing to the waste problem.
“I think it’s going to be a big issue in the U.S.,” says Laura Miller, a food waste manager for the food recycling program at the City of Portland.
“It’s just the scale of the problem that makes it hard to control.
So, it’s good to have that opportunity.”
For cities, the most promising waste-recycling programs are ones that can be implemented with minimal impact on the environment.
Miller is one of those people.
As a food processing plant manager, she recycles more than 70,000 pounds of waste a day, which translates into about 1,200 tons of waste per year.
As far as the environmental impact of her job, Miller points to the fact that the company she works for has no landfilling facilities.
“So, if we don’t have a facility, our waste is in the environment,” she says.
“And, the company doesn’t have to dispose of it.”
“We recycle about 70,0000 pounds a day and our landfines only take one day to do,” she adds.
“Our waste doesn’t need to be incinerated.”
As a waste-management consultant, Miller works with organizations to address the waste issue and improve their practices, such as setting limits on the amount that can come into the city.
And while she does a lot of outreach to her local governments, Miller says that she’s never seen a city institute any kind of mandatory recycling program.
“For a lot in the country, it just doesn’t happen,” she notes.
“We just don’t see it as a priority, because we don’ t see the need.”
For her part, Miller is committed to continuing to fight for an industry that’s contributing to our country’s landfiller problem.
For the past five years, she’s helped lead a project called Food for Food, which involves creating food waste recycling programs.
Miller started Food for All, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping cities and towns address the food waste issue.
Her first project focused on a rural area in Texas, where she worked with a local nonprofit that had a landfill and other waste collection facilities.
But, in the process, Miller noticed that the local community wasn’t interested in using the landfill.
“The community is not a part of the solution,” she explains.
“If you’re not doing something, it doesn’t matter.
So the community has not stepped up.”
Food for Everything is now working with a group of farmers in Texas to help implement the program and has launched an outreach program in Portland to educate residents about the importance of recycling their food waste.
The goal is to bring awareness to the city’s waste problem and encourage residents to be more active.
“My biggest challenge in terms of getting our city doing it is to have a vision and to actually execute that,” Miller says.
The city has been a big proponent of food waste collection.
The first municipal food waste program was established in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2014 that the city began to implement a national approach to recycling meat waste.
A study published in the journal Sustainable Resource Economics found that using landfolds to collect meat waste was the best way to reduce meat waste in the future.
“Because we can do this in a sustainable way, the environmental benefit is so great,” Miller explains.
For cities that are looking to reduce waste, there are plenty of ways to take advantage of the recycling efforts.
Miller points out that most of the city has its own recycling program, and the program that’s most effective is one that works on a community-wide basis.
“This one’s focused on your community,” she points out.
“You can be part of that community and participate in this program.”
With the help of the City’s waste recycling program and other resources, Miller hopes to bring more local food waste management to Portland, Oregon.
“When we get the food in the landfill, we’ll use the land for the landfill,” she suggests.
“But we don´t need to go in there and pick up the carcasses.
We can pick them up at the landfill, or we can compost them and take them back to our community.
We just need to do that in a way that’s sustainable.”