Demetra Herdes and Sanghamitra Mukherjee are UCD students aiming to establish a social enterprise aimed at reusing food waste. Their project’s goal is to process the food waste so that it can be transformed into compost in a very short time scale (2-3 weeks) without attracting rodents or insects. The process is sustainable and eco-friendly.
As Dublin Food Co-op is a members owned food co-op with sustainability at its core, they are hoping to connect with our members and growers who would be willing to help them by having their food waste processed by the project. It is free to take part in the project.
Food waste has a large carbon footprint: research from the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that if food waste were a country, it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. Roughly a third of the world’s food produce never gets eaten. When food waste is not segregated properly, it ends up in landfill or in incinerators, along with general waste, where it releases harmful methane and ammonia gases into the atmosphere, further contributing to global warming. In this scenario, the human labour, land and resources farmers dedicate to producing the food end up squandered. Waste sometimes happens unintentionally when food rots on farms or spoils during storage and distribution. However, food waste can often wilful and avoidable and occurs further along the supply chain when edible food and leftovers are thrown away within our own homes and businesses.
We are two student entrepreneurs from University College Dublin who are on a mission to minimise unnecessary food waste within households and small businesses. We believe that the key to this is better awareness of the scale of the problem, education on food waste reduction and proper food waste segregation. Organisations such as Stop Food Waste have fantastic resources on reducing household food waste. Unfortunately, there are fewer options for food waste segregation. We understand that even the most conscientious consumer can’t avoid some food waste, and it is unfortunate that some households (read: mainly apartment complexes and rental properties) currently don’t avail of convenient organic waste collection facilities. So much organic waste just ends up unsegregated and discarded in general waste bins. Overall, about a fifth of the general bin contents and 30% of the landfill waste is organic, which could have been diverted from landfill through better waste management at home. This didn’t sit well with environmentally minded people. We wanted to provide an accessible solution.
Our idea is to introduce a compact and easy to use organic waste processing system in apartments and small businesses that either don’t have a brown bin service or are looking for an alternative. We would then collect the pre-compost generated and offer it to our partners – community gardens, farms, and farmers markets – around Ireland. The pre-compost is an organic soil additive or green matter for composting heaps, that cuts weeks from the composting process. Our bins are designed to use a processing system hailing from Japan – the Bokashi method – that can compost all kinds of food waste and which takes away the messiness and stink from existing organic waste management systems. All in all, it’s perfect for the time and space constrained busy professional. The overarching goal of our project is to capture the value of food waste locally. We’d monitor the quality of the pre-compost generated very carefully and screen for contaminants so that it makes for a healthy addition to soil with the right balance of nutrients and microbiology. In the spirit of the circular economy framework, we’d be recycling waste streams to manufacture our bins, using recycled plastics and durable materials.
We’re looking for organic farmers and community gardeners that want to partner with us on a pilot project in the Leinster area, so that we can quickly test our idea and scale it up as soon as possible. Together we can offer a food waste management system that will help people, especially those living in shared spaces and apartments, manage their organic waste more efficiently by easing the food waste segregation process, and in turn, generate nutrient rich compost for our local food growers. We believe that our social enterprise, Chikyu (meaning “Earth” in Japanese), will strengthen the existing food waste recycling infrastructure and encourage more people to repurpose their food waste and think twice before wasting food needlessly. Our mission reflects Chikyu’s Japanese origin both in its name and purpose in the way it mimics the natural cycles that exist in nature and offers an affordable and accessible nature-based solution. In the end, if we are not mindful of where our waste goes as a society, we are unintentionally trashing our precious environment. And also losing all that lovely rich homegrown compost that our plants would’ve adored and thrived in!
We appreciate you sharing our project with anyone who might be interested.
Demetra Herdes & Sanghamitra Mukherjee