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State and Local Climate and Energy Program

Maximizing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions through Food Waste Diversion

Humboldt County, California

Federal Funding: $200,000
Project Timeline: February 2011 – February 2013

Latest Update

The Humboldt Waste Management Authority (HWMA) is continuing efforts to divert food waste from landfills. HWMA continued work with Humboldt State University (HSU), the first early adopter, to ensure clean loads of organic material are being collected from the campus dining services areas for the food waste diversion program. For their efforts, HSU was awarded a California State University “Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Best Practices Award” for Innovative Waste Management. Furthermore, HWMA launched the Pilot Food Waste Collection program in August 2012 and has recruited approximately 25 program participants. HWMA has continued working with Recology to execute the pilot collection program for the City of Eureka. HWMA developed a program brochure, education materials, and a participant recognition campaign, and trained participating businesses on waste diversion. Upcoming activities include developing a GIS model to optimize the hauling system for the food waste collection program, and developing a greenhouse gas emissions reductions calculator.


Photo of 3 different food waste containers.

Food Waste Diversion Program

This container pairing shows signs used in food waste diversion program implementation.

Meeting with an early adopter of the Pilot Food Waste Collection program

Pilot Food Waste Collection Program

Meeting with an early adopter of the Pilot Food Waste Collection program

Food waste audit

Food waste audit

Food waste training at a participating business.

Food waste training at a participating business

HWMA hauling toters

HWMA hauling toters

HWMA hauling toters

HWMA hauling toters

Food waste hauling truck.

Food waste hauling truck

Project Summary

Assessing and Maximizing Food Waste Diversion Collection Strategies

As new landfills have become more challenging to permit, and as old landfills reach the end of their useful life, municipalities are increasingly reliant on larger landfills located outside the jurisdiction's borders. In Humboldt County's case, the landfills are an average of 180 miles away. The Humboldt Waste Management Authority (HWMA) is developing a project that will create an efficient food waste collection program that maximizes the GHG reductions achieved from food waste diversion—reducing emissions via diverting food waste from landfills, reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and using biogas to offset fossil fuel use.

HWMA is working with commercial and industrial “early adopters” who are interested in food waste collection. HWMA staff are helping these “early adopters” develop on-site food separation systems, and to help them maintain a high rate of food waste diversion. HWMA measures the quantity of food waste collected at each location, performs on-site waste audits, and uses this data to model the project's performance over time.

In addition to improved food waste diversion from commercial and industrial establishments, the project will create a GIS mapping tool that will help organizations model and analyze efficient food waste collection strategies. The tool will incorporate the amount of food waste collected, the trash bin size and frequency of pickup, and the location of the future anaerobic digesters. The tool will be used to model and compare the changes in GHG emissions for three different food waste collection approaches. This tool will be used by early adopters to determine the best food collection strategy for their site. The three food waste collection options in consideration are 1) reduced trash collection service requirements, 2) dual stream collection trucks, and 3) bi-monthly garbage collection in conjunction with food waste collection up to three times per week.

In addition to the GIS mapping tool, the project will prepare a food waste resource assessment "tool-kit" and develop commercial food waste diversion program guidelines. Other communities interested in developing a food waste diversion program can use these tools to help develop efficient food waste collection systems in order to reduce the GHG emissions impact associated with waste management.

Community Characteristics

Population 130,000
Area 3,572 square miles
Government Type County Waste Management Authority
Community Type Urban and Suburban
Median Household Income $39,124

Program Results

  Reported Results (as of September 2012) Projected Cumulative Results
Actual GHG Reductions 37 mt CO2e 1,727 mt CO2e
Waste Diverted Annually 54 mt 2,360 mt
Annual Vehicle Mile Reduction 30 miles 42,000 miles
Annual Economic Savings $0 $35,407

Project Website

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