Food For Thought: Soilutions Completes The Food Cycle

Local Composting Co. Recycles Restaurant Food Waste

Robin Babb
4 min read
wasted food
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Earth Day is coming up, and that means we’re thinking a lot about sustainability and the environmental impacts of our actions here at the Alibi. It’s easy to recycle paper and plastic (and glass too, if you know where to take it) and we’re all trying to be more aware of our water usage out here in the arid Southwest, but there’s so many more easy steps we could all be taking to slow the planet’s steady decline into climate apocalypse. So, throughout the month of April, I’ll be writing about small ways you can reduce your food waste and your carbon footprint.

One of those small ways is to compost your food waste. While some big cities like San Francisco and New York are beginning to institute compost pick-up services alongside trash and recycling, that’s a distant dream for our humble little desert community.

Thankfully, there’s a third party that’s stepped in to provide this service. Soilutions was founded by Jim and Karen Brooks in 1987 as an adaptive landscaping company, but their efforts to protect and enrich New Mexico’s soil soon expanded into composting as well. Now, the food waste management division of Soilutions—“Albuquerque’s only foodwaste [sic] recycling collection service,” according to their website—is a pioneering force in reducing food waste and providing quality, locally-made compost to farmers, gardeners and landscapers throughout the state. They collect the material that makes up their compost mostly from Albuquerque area restaurants, breweries and coffee shops that sign up for their services. For a monthly fee, Soilutions picks up the food waste from these businesses and takes it to their composting facilities, effectively removing it from the landfill, where it would produce methane instead of being composted into valuable, nutrient-rich plant food. That plant food then gets sold to growers in the Rio Grande Valley, who use it to grow their crops—neatly completing the local food cycle.

A few of the businesses that recycle their food waste with Soilutions are Bosque Brewing, Humble Coffee, The Grove and Los Poblanos. Although there isn’t much of an economic incentive to compost your business’ food waste, there’s certainly an environmental one (and being able to say that you do it in your marketing will definitely make you look good).

Here, I have a brief Q&A with Walter Dods, Compost Facility Operations and Food Waste Management at Soilutions, about composting. Dods encourages everyone to try their hand at composting—but adds that Soilutions is there to help if you don’t want to do it on your own.

Alibi: What’s the environmental impact of food waste going into landfills?

Walter Dods: By some accounts 40 percent of food gets thrown away between farm and table in the US, at a cost of $100 billion—while at the same time 15 percent of households have food security issues. Food represents up to 14 percent of the waste stream in America. Another way to look at it is this: 20 lbs of food per month, per person gets wasted. So the first question should be: Why does the food get wasted? By diverting food from the landfills we can feed the hungry.

If the food does spoil and becomes inedible, composting is an excellent way to manage it, especially in this arid climate. By composting, we can save landfill space, reduce methane generation at landfills, build healthy soils and conserve water and land.

How does composting help the environment?

Composting helps the environment by using valuable material to regenerate soils, recharge waters, feed populations and reduce negative impacts associated with landfills.

What exactly does Soilutions do? Where does your compost go?

We compost. We recycle organics into composts and mulches. We educate the population on its proper use and strive to enlighten anyone to the possibilities. We sell to anyone interested in growing healthy soils.

How can regular, non-food service people in Albuquerque compost or dispose of their food waste more responsibly?

The most responsible way to manage your food waste is to compost at home. Don’t tell me you can’t, it’s definitely doable! There are a couple of things to watch out for. (Don’t trust the internet! We don’t live on rain drenched coasts!) But if you feel like it’s out of your league, that’s why we’re here.

Later this month, we’ll talk about different at-home composting methods, as well as other ways to reduce or reuse your food waste at home.
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