2024-05-23 18:53Video

New Directions in Home Food Waste Recycling

FoodCycler Thought Leadership

Ten years ago, at the Vermont Organics Recycling Summit (VORS) in Randolph, VT, the state’s ambitious food waste law was new, and we had our sights set on the distant future of July 2020, when all food scraps – even from households – would be banned from disposal. 

Vermont has made admirable progress reducing and recovering food waste in the decade between VORS 2014 and VORS 2024. Donations to the Vermont Food Bank rose dramatically. Grocers have found ways to waste less. Food scrap carts are now standard behind stores and restaurants. Countless backyard composters have been distributed to households. Food waste collection services have been established. There is plenty to celebrate. 

Even with considerable progress, however, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation reported that food waste still accounts for over 18 percent (roughly 70,000 tons) of the Vermont waste stream, which means each year a little more than 200 pounds of food for every person in the state, ends up in the trash. And while the energy value of that food waste will be captured at the landfill, achieving our shared climate and sustainability goals requires that we continue to work to return carbon and nutrients to the soil. 

Casella has been collecting food scraps since 1999. Today, we capture around 130,000 tons of food waste every year, redirecting it from disposal to compost, anaerobic digestion, and animal feed. Our success has been with food manufacturers, groceries, restaurants, and other businesses. Household food scraps remain a stubbornly small portion of our work, despite ReFed’s estimates that 48% of food waste occurs at home. 

With so much food waste progress, how could so much still be in the trash? Two insights seem relevant: 

Dealing with food scraps is not everyone’s idea of a good time. Many of the people who diligently set up their backyard compost bin may not be using it year-round. In the heat of the summer when fruit flies are rampant, the kitchen bucket may get tucked away for a while. In the depths of winter, while some of us are happily snowshoeing and cross-country skiing to our bins, our neighbors may be pursuing different (warmer) hobbies. 

Many Vermonters don’t have a backyard to compost in. Contrary to outsider depictions of Vermont, over 30 percent of Vermonters live in multi-family housing or apartments without access to a yard or garden. While many people may carry their food scrap buckets to a local drop-off, we also understand that not everyone enjoys transporting wet food scraps in their car or balancing a bucket between their feet on the bus. 

So, where do we go from here? 

Introducing FoodCycler® by Casella, a modern twist on an ancient idea: Uneaten food should be returned to the soil to grow plants and continue the cycle. And if a household appliance will help our friends and neighbors join in, let’s get them a great appliance that’s easy to use, odorless, quiet, and energy efficient. Press a button and it will transform a bucket full of plate scrapings and vegetable trimmings into a couple handfuls of dry material that looks like coffee grounds. It’s not compost. We run compost sites, and work with hard-working farm and municipal composters throughout the region. We know you can’t make compost on your counter overnight. But this stuff is a great feedstock for making compost, and a lot more pleasant to handle than last week’s food scraps. 

If Vermont’s food waste recycling goals could have been achieved only through hard work and an earnest passion for local soil, I believe that the good people at VORS would have recovered every scrap of food waste years ago. But success also requires behavior change in thousands of home kitchens across the state at a time when time is precious, and convenience is king. 

As we look to the future, Vermonters who call Casella to set up trash and recycling service will also be offered the option to add a FoodCycler® appliance right into their monthly subscription. We hope they’ll join us in trying something new. Visit casella.com/foodcycler to learn more.

About Casella Waste Systems, Inc.

Casella Waste Systems, Inc., headquartered in Rutland, Vermont, is one of the largest recyclers and most experienced fully integrated resource management companies in the Eastern United States. Founded in 1975 as a single truck collection service, Casella has grown its operations to provide solid waste collection and disposal, transfer, recycling, and organics services to more than one million residential, commercial, municipal, institutional, and industrial customers and provides professional resource management services to over 10,000 customer locations in more than 40 states.


Jeff Weld
Vice President of Communications
Jeff Weld