Food waste recycling is coming to Tacoma businesses citywide next month.
The debut comes after a four-year pilot program that offered free, biweekly pickup of food and other organic waste to 65 businesses — many of them grocery stores, florists, restaurants and institutional kitchens. Businesses contributed expired produce, food scraps and floral waste.
One of those businesses, Tacoma Boys, plans to continue when the city begins charging commercial customers for the recycling May 1. Produce manager Matt Usher said the store now uses a smaller container for garbage because it is recycling its unsold and unusable food.
He anticipates Tacoma Boys will stay with the paid program for as long as rates remain affordable.
Businesses that can reduce their garbage through food-waste recycling stand to save money, city officials say. A 6-foot container of trash costs $218 for weekly pickup in Tacoma. Beginning May 1, the city will charge $71 to pick up the same size container filled with food waste.
In the first year of the pilot program, the city collected 720 tons of food waste — an average of 60 tons per month, said Jetta Antonakos, a senior environmental specialist for the city. A 2009 city study found that roughly one-quarter of commercial garbage collected was food waste, slightly less than the one-third the city found in residential garbage.
Tacoma’s expansion of recycling programs is part of its work to meet the 2008 Tacoma-Pierce County Solid Waste Management Plan goal of reducing garbage sent to the landfill by 70 percent by 2028.
City Councilman Ryan Mello said extending landfill life is paramount. The last load of waste was buried at the Tacoma Recovery & Transfer Center in 2012, forcing the city to transport solid waste to a landfill in Graham.
Building a new landfill could cost in the “tens of millions,” Mello said.
Tacoma sends food waste to a compost facility in Puyallup that is owned and operated by Waste Connection. The end result is marketed as Cascade Compost and can be purchased at local garden supply stores.
Later this year, the city of Tacoma plans to do another waste composition study, sifting through bins to analyze the types of waste collected and the progress of the residential and commercial food and yard waste recycling program.