Company finds new life for restaurant food scraps

Published: Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 5:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 5:08 p.m.

Chris Cano’s business plan involves decomposing food, worms and yard waste – in large quantities.

Gainesville Compost recycles local restaurants’ food scraps into fertilizer by means of the compost process. Cano furthers his slogan “From Waste to Food” by setting up urban gardens, such as wall gardens, in the restaurants so they can use the compost to grow their own food.

“When you use local restaurant food waste as a soil amendment to grow more food to be consumed locally, that food waste stays out of the landfill, enriches the soil and grows more food all at the same time,” said Val Leitner, president of Blue Oven Kitchens, a local food activist group.

Cano said compost fertilizer is sometimes referred to as “black gold” because of its soil-enriching qualities.

He had used kitchen scraps from his own home to make compost for his garden for years.

“It dawned on me that I could make it bigger and started collecting from different restaurants,” Cano said.

After graduating from UF in 2010, Cano was looking for a project that would benefit the Gainesville community and the environment.

In September, he started collecting from five local restaurants: Reggae Shack Café, The Jones, The Bull, Karma Cream and The Midnight.

Using a bike trailer for maximum sustainability, Cano picks up the scraps from each restaurant two to three times a week and delivers it to the compost bins at his partners’ locations. Partners include local food activists such as the Downtown Farmer’s Garden and The Church of Holy Colors art gallery.

Cano said the process works by combining the food waste with yard waste such as dried leaves.

“There is kind of a buzz around town. People really like this initiative,” he said.

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