From table to farm: Solving Charleston's food waste problem

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - From the farm to the table, more diners are taking into consideration where their food comes from. But what about where the food goes after it's over?

"One of the things that is a real stumbling block in our industry is the amount of waste we create," said Frank Lee, the executive chef at Old Village Post House.

"We generate an enormous amount of trash," said Eli Hyman, of the popular Hyman's Seafood.

Restaurant owners and chefs don't only have to think about the world-class food Charleston is known for, but everything that comes after those dishes get devoured.

"The largest food waste is food left on the tables," Hyman said.

So where does all that waste go? Charleston County's landfill on Bee's Ferry Road in West Ashley is broken up into two parts. On one side, everyday trash is tossed and turned in order to be flattened and buried; on the other, there are huge compost piles where Mother Nature is at work turning food waste and organic debris into nutrient-rich product used in farms and gardens.

"Everyone is familiar with the local farm-to-table movement and what we are really trying to do. It is for restaurants to take it a step further and complete that composting loop by sending their organic waste back to the farm," said ____________________

Charleston County officials want less waste and more compost and have set a goal to recycle 40 percent of the waste that comes into the landfill because the facility is quickly filling up. Right now, county officials say 100 tons of food waste comes into the Bees Ferry landfill from area restaurants, grocery stores and homes every week.

"Unfortunately, it has less than 20 years left, meaning the more food and waste in general that we are producing, the more it is going to fill up," she said.

That means a site that has been the place Charleston County has hidden and buried its trash for 20 years is reaching the end of its life cycle. However, if the county can reach its 40 percent recycling goal, it could extend the landfill's life span by another 40 years.

"You get an uncomfortable feeling just tossing everything into a dumpster because we are a part of a system, a whole system, whether it be from the industrial food chain to the local food chain all the way down to the dump. It's something that you have to be aware of," Lee said.

It's a mountain of garbage and a goal of getting more food waste from the table back to the farm.

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