Love Food Not Waste
Sarah Medary, ICMA-CM, City Manager
Until 2011, millions of pounds of food waste went into Eugene’s local landfill each year. To reduce waste and support its Climate Action Plan, the city partnered with waste haulers and organics processors to launch the Love Food Not Waste® (LFNW) program to collect food waste and transform food scraps into valuable compost. What began as a pilot program with local businesses, schools, and other organizations, expanded city-wide by 2019, diverting thousands of pounds of food waste and creating locally produced compost.
By diverting food scraps from the landfill, LFNW advances Eugene’s Climate Action Plan by creating a system to recover high-energy material while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing landfilled food waste decreases the production of methane, a harmful greenhouse gas produced when organic materials decay in low-oxygen environments. In addition, directing organic waste into compost production maximizes landfill space and produces a valuable product that contributes to soil health for farms and gardens.
LFNW was developed through the combined efforts of the city, licensed garbage haulers, and private processors who worked together to create a system for collecting and processing organic material from solid waste customers. Initial funding came from the city and a Lane County Waste Management grant. Ongoing administrative funding comes from city solid waste license fees, and operational funding comes from service fees charged by licensed haulers. Bagged LFNW compost is sold locally and regionally under the trademarked LFNW name. Revenues from the sale of the finished compost products go to compost processors and contribute to program support.
As an incentive for business participation, commercial customers that divert food waste through LFNW get a 20 percent reduction in their garbage service fee. The city trains participating businesses’ employees and provides resources at no cost. The businesses also receive recognition through LFNW marketing messaging. In October 2019, LFNW expanded to serve residents citywide after a successful three-year pilot program. Residents place food scraps in their curbside yard waste bins at no additional cost. LFNW is convenient and seamlessly integrated into the existing curbside yard debris collection system.
In addition to Eugene residents, more than 270 businesses and organizations, including all 44 Eugene public K-12 schools, currently participate in LFNW. Collectively, these efforts diverted more than 18,000 tons of food waste from the landfill. The program received overwhelmingly positive reception from the community. While residents can still compost yard trimmings and vegetative food scraps themselves, LFNW offers opportunities to capture items such as meat scraps and bones that are not suitable for a backyard compost bin.
From the inception of the commercial program through the 2019 residential program roll-out and beyond, community awareness, education, and engagement have been key to the program’s success. Program partners, including local garbage haulers and compost processors, contribute to public messaging and customer training using the well-recognized LFNW logo and branding. Area waste haulers have been willing to leverage existing infrastructure and incorporate food waste into yard debris collection service to ensure the success of the program. Local access to commercial composting processors that have capacity to provide an end use for the materials has also been essential.
Eugene city leaders continue to provide strong support for innovative programs like LFNW that align with the community’s commitment to sustainability and to ensure that Eugene is an increasingly resilient and livable city through partnerships and responsible stewardship of resources. Eugene’s robust food waste collection program recognizes the importance of conscientious materials management and serves as an example to other communities seeking to advance their sustainability efforts.