Growing local business uses food scraps for good
NEW HARTFORD — When something gets thrown in the trash, the public mind seldom thinks about where it will go. Or what it will do.
And when it comes to food waste, these scraps can cause a lot of harm, or potentially, a lot of good. One New Hartford based business is looking to focus on the good.
Melissa Shupp, of New Hartford, is the owner of CNY Green Bucket Project, an organization channeling residential food waste away from the landfill to transform it into energy. Since its inception in 2018, CNY Green Bucket Project has collected over 86,000 pounds of food scraps to better the planet.
The business started as a passion project for Shupp, a local art teacher who’s always been conscious of her environmental impact. Composting food scraps at home was just the way things were done, she said.
As no one in the area was offering residential services for more earth-friendly food scrap disposal, like composting, she saw a business opportunity she could get behind. “I can do this for a bigger purpose than me,” she thought, and so her venture began.
She found that there was real demand to use food scraps for good, and with the help of a Clinton-based climate-smart organization facilitating local surveys and promotion, Shupp adopted a business model that allowed her to pursue her passion full time in 2021. Her clients more than doubled in number since then, with now over 120 clients on board, around 50 of them having been clients for over 3 years.
CNY Green Bucket Project offers curbside food scrap pick up bi-weekly for residents in Clinton, Utica, New Hartford, New York Mills, and surrounding areas. Residents drop their scraps into compostable bags that rest inside designated green buckets. The filled bags are taken away and replaced with new ones, and the buckets are washed and returned for clients to reuse.
A discounted drop-and-swap service is also available at the CNY Green Bucket Project office in New Hartford.
Shupp says people are willing to make these small changes and monthly investments in their waste disposal methods because they realize the impact.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, food is the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills in the United States.
This fact is amplified by not only the waste in resources — including water, transportation, labor, and actual food — but also the byproduct. In a landfill environment, the wasted food rots and produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
According to the EPA, “[Municipal solid waste] landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions in the United States generated by human activity, accounting for approximately 14.5 percent of these emissions in 2020. At the same time, methane emissions from landfills represent a lost opportunity to capture and use a significant energy resource.”
CNY Green Bucket Project is now tapping into this methane in its mission to protect the planet. Rather than traditionally repurposing the food scraps through composting — which is the method the business first adopted — the company’s collections are now turned into energy to power essential public works.
The process is all thanks to the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority’s (Authority) organics diversion program. Since its launch in 2019, this program, dubbed “Food2Energy,” processes food waste at the Authority’s Source Separated Organics (SSO) Processing Facility, located at the Eastern Transfer Station in Utica, and sends it to the Oneida County Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP) where the recovered food scraps are turned into energy through a process called anaerobic digestion, which captures methane. The energy is used to help power the WPCP.
Food2Energy also provides an economic incentive to participate in the program. The tipping fee for regular garbage in Oneida and Herkimer counties is currently $60 per ton, compared to $40 per ton of SSO processed through Food2Energy.
Forgetting about waste once it’s in the trash bin is a luxury most people can experience, Shupp remarked, but ignorance isn’t bliss. Climate change continues to impact quality of life for many, and waste continues to accumulate in landfills, waterways, and neighborhoods. But change can be taken right now, and Shupp hopes that CNY Green Bucket Project can help be a part of that.
Every pound of scraps collected is contributing to positive change, Shupp said. And each person willing to make the effort helps CNY Green Bucket Project grow. “That’s the only reason why [the business is] here is because people keep saying ‘yes.’”
If you want us here, we will grow.”
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