Rounding up outdated food
Local company turns unwanted food items into cattle feed

By Eileen Mozinski Schmidt - Special to The Freeman

Feb. 15, 2018


Scott Leamy, an Organix Recycling employee, talks last month with visitor Tom Leamy at the local Organix operation in Oconomowoc.
Submitted photo

OCONOMOWOC — Americans throw away a lot of food.

Between 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. food supply is wasted, according to the USDA. And about 95 percent of what is thrown away ends up in landfills or combustion facilities, according to the EPA website.

In 2015, the two government agencies called for a 50 percent reduction in wasted food supply by 2030, the nation’s first food loss waste goal, the USDA website reported.

It is an issue one local business is working on, keeping food out of the landfills through a circular approach of sending it back to area farms.

“We round up outdated produce, bakery, and dairy items and turn that into cattle feed,” said Tom Draper, manager of the Oconomowoc location of Organix Recycling. “All of that stuff in the landfill causes a lot of methane gas.”

Organix, a Mokena, Ill.-based company, has locations throughout the U.S. and bills itself as the largest collector of food recyclables nationwide. A little over a year ago, Organix opened locally at 200 Chaffee Road and now has a contract with Roundy’s.

Roundy’s does not publicly release contract terms, but the general feedback regarding the program has been positive as it involves keeping food out of the landfill, said James Hyland, vice president of communications and public affairs for Roundy’s Supermarkets, Inc. About 17,000 tons of food have been moved through the program to date, wrote Hyland in an email.

“The program fits well with our sustainability initiatives, particularly with Kroger’s Zero Hunger/Zero Waste Imitative,” Hyland wrote.

Locally, Organix has a crew of four employees and is working with a handful of area farms.

Organix picks up loads at Roundy’s at least six days a week, said Scott Leamy, an employee with Organix.

Each load of food is inspected to make sure it is free of any garbage or meat, and anything that is contaminated is sent to a composite site or to the farm of one of the recycling business’s clients, where a digester is used.

Draper said he would like to see the local Organix operation grow by partnering with other grocery chains and bakeries in the area.

In some locations where Organix is operating, there is enough business to fill truckloads of food for processing, he said.

“Here we have big totes and load them onto trailers to go to the farms,” said Draper, who said the feed is nutritious for cattle and can be a means for cattle farmers to save money on corn prices.

Nationwide, Organix diverts over 7 million pounds of organic waste from landfills from 6,000 supermarkets each week, according to the business’s website.

“We have a great understanding of the product mixture, seasonal fluctuations, and operational obstacles that are unique to organic recycling,” the site says.

Draper said he hopes to see the momentum Organix has had nationwide reflected locally, which started in 2009 and today operates in 34 states and Puerto Rico.

“It’s pretty impressive, that kind of growth,” he said. “Word’s going to get out. It’s just a good thing.

“It’s making a big difference in communities.”