At PCC we are proud of our commitment to do our part to help the planet. We regularly review our policies, procedures and processes to see if what changes can be made that will have a beneficial effect on the environment and work in our business model. Some of these include improving energy efficiencies in our facility, composting and recycling our waste, offering ‘greener’ alternatives to our clients. We began offering ‘zero-waste’ events to our clients and the enthusiasm was inspiring. We were very proud to be one of the few caterers who had the resources to conduct small and large scale zero-waste events. With our knowledgeable staff, compostable disposable offerings and composting service, we had become the ‘go-to’ people for sustainability in catering. Then suddenly last summer our program encountered a major hurdle. Our composting partner, Organic Diversion, informed us that their professional composting facility, Peninsula Compost Company, in Wilmington had been closed for an indefinite period. All indications are that it will never reopen.
The key factor to being able to conduct reduced and zero waste events is having access to a professional composting facility. Non-food compostables such as plates, cups and utensils are made from sturdy materials including paper, leaves, and corn based resources. They are all compostable, but require the higher temperatures in composting piles achieved only in professional facilities. It turns out this is the only facility of its kind in our area. So for now, we are unable to provide zero-waste events. We can still compost food waste, but this is small compared to the bulk of plates, napkins and utensils generated at events. So we find ourselves in this paradigm shift where the greenest option is plastic. Plastic??? Why plastic? Plastic can be recycled. A quick audit of our disposable items revealed that they are made of plastics #5 and #6, which can be recycled by The City of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania. So a reduced waste event now consists of recycling the plastic disposables and composting the food waste. One could argue that the compostable disposables will biodegrade quicker in the landfill, however, this process releases methane – a more potent greenhouse gas than Co2. True there is methane released in composting, however, there is the benefit of the actual compost being returned to farms as nutrient rich soil and a reduction of the overall volume sent to the landfill. So for now it’s plastic. Hard to believe, when just a short while ago we were on our way to really changing the way people thought about their events and having great sustainable options. In the meantime we will encourage recycling and continue to search for composting options and encouraging our suppliers to keep stocking compostable items so that we can step right back in when the opportunity arises.
Our periodic review of our sustainability initiatives has yielded our annual 2015 Green Report. You will notice a decrease in green events in 2015 in comparison to 2014. This is the disheartening reality of our composting predicament. To view the report, click this link – http://www.philadelphiacatering.com/greeninitiatives.asp.
To read more about the Wilmington composting facility and a troubling conspiracy theory on Waste Management and its dubious role in this closing – click link