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West Lafayette improving city sustainability with new food waste collecting bin

The city of West Lafayette is focusing on food waste as a way to reduce its carbon footprint. The streets department recently got a new device that's helping meet that goal.

Posted: Jul 29, 2021 8:16 AM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) -- Food waste is at the forefront for West Lafayette leaders right now. That's because it's helping fuel energy for city facilities, in turn, making the city more environmentally friendly.

A new food waste collecting bin is really behind this movement. The bin is attached to the back of a city Streets and Sanitation Department truck. It's able to carry several hundred pounds of the city's food waste. It's also helping workers more easily transport that food to the wastewater treatment plant. That's where it's ground-up inside an anaerobic digester then turned into renewable energy that goes back into helping power the plant.

The West Lafayette Go Greener Commission has been working to get this bin installed since 2019. They received a $120,000 grant from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management after asking for funding for a program they launched that year. The program was designed to expand the city's food waste collecting initiative's beyond just Purdue's campus. The city had been collecting food waste from the campus for 10 years and wanted to open it up to allow all West Lafayette residents to participate. 

Through the 2019 program, they gave out free food waste bins that citizens and company owners could have in their households or businesses. The goal would be for them to fill those bins with food waste and drop it off at the streets and sanitation office, which is the only city designated spot to collect food waste.

But through this program, they ran into the obstacle of not being able to easily transport the food waste from the streets department to the wastewater treatment plant. That's why they decided to invest in the food waste collecting bin to help solve that problem. And because of this bin, they're now able to expand even further the amount of food waste they collect. 

The city has decided to push this food waste collecting initiative to Greek houses, which is a group of residents Go Greener Commission member Madison Hodges said was one of the toughest to capture. And in addition to the Streets and Sanitation Department drop-off location, the city will also be adding two more locations by this fall. Hodges said those locations will be announced in the coming weeks.

Hodges has been a leading force in getting the city funding for this collecting bin. She said it was really the missing piece in making the city's food waste program work to the best of its ability. West Lafayette's food waste collecting program is contributing to at least 20% of the energy input going into the wastewater treatment plant. 

"That is significant," said Hodges. "So however we can reduce our impact in West Lafayette to benefit future West Lafayette citizens, I think we should take part."

She's hoping other communities, state and nationwide, consider moving into this direction of finding innovative ways to reuse food waste.

"I do hope that other communities start to compost, really consider what are we doing with our organic waste, why are we sending it to a landfill when we could be doing something else with it, producing fertilizer through compost or producing energy with an anaerobic digester."

If you're a West Lafayette resident interested in collecting your food waste for the city, you can get a bin for free from the Streets and Sanitation Department. You can go in person and request one.

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