Upstate’s food composting program grows under partnership with OCRRA

The Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA) lists Upstate University Hospital as one of the sustainability leaders in the community.

That recognition by OCRRA is in no small part due to Upstate’s food composting project.

By teaming up with its food service provider (Morrison Healthcare, a member of Compass Group) and OCRRA, Upstate has diverted more than 150,000 pounds of food scraps from the trash.

Such sustainability efforts make sense.

A recent Harris Poll study of healthcare professionals reported that 54 percent say their hospitals currently incorporate sustainability into purchasing decisions and 80 percent expect that to be the case within two years. According to the study, 64 percent of respondents said green initiatives are an important factor for patients when choosing a hospital. Healthcare professionals also believe green initiatives make good financial sense for hospitals, the survey said.

In 2011, OCRRA was working with Upstate on general recycling and waste reduction programs. OCRRA suggested Upstate partner with their food service provider to collect food scraps for composting. The goal: divert this heavy, wet material out of the trash and the waste water system (think garbage disposals).

OCRRA met with Upstate’s Director of Environmental Services Susan Campanaro; Jason Rupert, operational supervisor of environmental services; and Morrison Healthcare Executive Chef Thomas Kiernan to discuss the potential project. Committed to reducing the hospital’s environmental impact, the group signed on to an ambitious food scrap recovery program. The main Morrison cafeteria kitchen, Tim Horton’s and Espress Oasis Coffee Bar also are now active contributors to the food diversion program. OCRRA provided employee training and supplied posters and decals to help employees maximize collection.

Upstate continually strives to improve their sustainability program. Adding food scrap separation was a logical avenue for the hospital to pursue. It helped the hospital and the food service vendor achieve their respective sustainability goals.

The environmental services department bids out and awards the food waste pick up services to a local waste and recycling hauler, which transports the pre-consumer food scraps to OCRRA’s Amboy Compost Site in Camillus.

In 2013, the hospital diverted 104,000 pounds of food waste which helped them contribute to the Upstate President’s climate action plan goals—without incurring any substantial cost increases. The future financial goal is to maximize cost-effectiveness as the volume of food waste increases.

Rupert strongly supports the program. “I strongly recommend and encourage other institutions to engage with OCRRA as they are knowledgeable and can provide resources to ensure these programs are successful.”

Closing the loop on the food composting project begins with a visit to OCRRA’s Amboy Compost Site, where yard and food waste are transformed into a nutrient-rich soil, that residents can purchase it for use in their gardens and landscaping.

CAPTION:  Morrison Healthcare food services employee Betty Stroman separates food scraps in an Upstate University Hospital kitchen. Food scraps are sent to the OCRRA Amboy Compost Site where they are processed into nutrient-rich compost that residents can purchase and use in their gardens and landscapes.

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