I was reading an article the other day about a socially responsible, green business called EcoScraps that was founded in Utah. The company’s founders, then students at BYU, noticed the incredible amount of food scraps that was ending up in the garbage cans of a favorite restaurant and decided composting the food waste into potting soil and selling it make a great business.
They figured since the cost of the raw materials was nothing, there was a good profit to be made with this novel idea.
Today, EcoScraps collects numerous tons of food waste each day from over 70 restaurants, grocery stores, produce wholesalers, and Costco stores around Utah. They currently do not include takeaway leftovers in dumpsters, but no doubt, this would be an excellent source of raw material as well.
The waste is then composted into potting soil which is sold for about $8.50 per bag in nurseries and garden stores around the Western USA.
Company sales are estimated to reach over $1.5 million in 2011!
Along with the development of a killer business model that encourages everyone involved to do the right thing, BYU classmates Craig Martineau, Brandon Sargent, and Dan Blake discovered something very interesting along the way.
They discovered that the scraps from Chinese restaurants weren’t very good compared with other restaurants.
In fact, Blake says that “The compost we made from Chinese restaurant dumpsters was terrible. It killed plants within 12 hours.”
Notice how Mr. Blake did not distinguish between high-end Chinese restaurants and cheap, back alley ones where you wonder why there aren’t any stray cats hanging around. He lumped them all into the same category as “terrible”.
What could possibly be in the Chinese restaurant scraps that are so bad that it kills plants when composted? It’s anyone’s guess on that one. An overreliance on GM ingredients perhaps? Maybe the chemical residue from disinfecting those nasty, factory-farmed chickens?
I for one know that I get killer headaches from all the MSG when I eat at these types of establishments.
Be warned that Chinese restaurants that claim to be MSG-free are not. A “No MSG” sign in the window of a Chinese restaurant only means that they don’t add any additional MSG to the fare. There is plenty of MSG already in there with all the prepackaged food and sauces that are used.
So, the next time you are considering Chinese takeout, remember that the “food” you are planning to buy would kill your flower or vegetable garden if you composted it! This should be motivation enough to go home and prepare the meal yourself!
Source: Inc., May 2011
That is very interesting! I made the mistake of eating chinese take out at the mall last friday and boy oh boy, my guts were just killing me. It sat like a hard lump making me bloated and ‘liquidy’ feeling for almost 4 days. I swore to my husband that I will not make that mistake again!!! Gross. I find that eating healthy and more traditional, your body reacts more violently to processed foods the odd time that you do have them. Cheap ice cream too – wow, within an hour of eating it, I feel nauseous and have a major headache. Put my ice cream maker’s bowl in the freezer the other day, ready to make my own again 🙂
Thanks for the awesome articles!! I LOVE your website!
Natasha @ Saved by the Egg Timer
Oh gross! I admit I have a few asian resteraunts I like to frequent…hmmm? I will be heading over to there websites right now to do a little more research. It sure is amazing how resiliant our bodies are even if we feel lousey, look at what we do or used to put into it?
My recipe blog has a started segment about Good Chinese take out (from scratch!) 1 recipe in and more to come, with a little instructions and knowledge you can make excellent tasting and good for you chinese food 🙂 http://savedbytheeggtimer.blogspot.com/search/label/good%20chinese%20take-out
Brandi Monson via Facebook
I think that the salt is an interesting theory. Don’t forget that MSG is mono-SODIUM-glutamate. The average American style Chinese fare is hardly healthy, although true Chinese food that’s large on veggies and small of deep-fried whatever, can be very healthy.
And that’s the whole point! ANYTHING can be made healthy if cooked the right way with real ingredients. However it may not taste the same as we are “used” to. The key is to get “used” to real food again. I’m so proud of my kids, who were like anyone else’s in America a few years ago, who have totally supported me in healthy eating and now taste all the sugar and chemicals in our food and say “no thanks” to samples and treats given at church etc. they bring Their own raw milk to summer camps and chia hope they survive the week! My husband… he still has more to learn. LOL!
If anyone is under the delusion that the most popular Chinese restaurant dishes are in any way nutritionally different from other high-fat, high-sodium, MSG-added, deep-fried restaurant food, they are substituting racism for reason. Most restaurants use factory-farmed chicken; most restaurants use cheap oils for frying; most restaurants use GMO foods and additives, including MSG and related flavorings. Fried food doesn’t compost well because the surface is dry, and it’s usually very oily and highly spiced, which isn’t good for microbial life. Chinese home cooking, and that at genuine homestyle Chinese restaurants, is excellent stuff.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
I have a video on the right hand column of one of the Chinese dishes I make at home. Chinese food made right is very healthy!
I wonder if it is all the salt (soy sauce) in everything. Most traditional garden plants/veggies cannot tolerate high sodium levels in their soil.
Lyn Nielson via Facebook
this is a very interesting artical hope you all read and leave a comment
Anything composted should only be vegetable or fruit. no meat or oils should ever be in composted materials. picking up kitchen scraps at a restaurant is likely to have other not so desirable items in it. if it’s also mixed with table scraps then it has sauces, oils, meats, etc in it for sure.
I have been to many bulk oriental food shops and their food is no different than you find at any restaurant supplier, if we are talking vegetables and fruits. I find it insulting (and I’m not Chinese) anyone would single out chinese packaged food/restaurant food full of junk when you can walk into any grocery store/american restaurant and find the same thing. Everything has “no added MSG” on it now.
GM foods are in costco and other higher end brand grocery stores too and thanks to the new law being passes we will see more of it.
BTW cats are carnivorous and would only hang around places with raw meat/fish, they don’t eat vegetables or rice or sugar laden sauces. at least not wild cats, now house cats, poor things have a terrible cooked diet.
I think rather than point the finger at the restaurant the finger pointing should be directed at the dumpster divers. They did say they took it from dumpster, which would be filled with all sorts of rotting (not just decomposing) garbage. If they were going to collect veg and fruit scraps for compost I think they should supply the establishment with collection bins for this raw produce only. Not a mixture of everything that goes in the dumpster. Pointing fingers at others for their dead plants seems very irresponsible to me.
Also it makes me wonder why they separate out the chinese food compost from the “other” you would think it would go into one huge composter.
Having said all that, I never eat at chinese restaurants, I can taste the same yucky oil in every food item. But then I never eat at other restaurants either. You are only fooling yourself when you think it’s chinese places that use factory chicken. Once you start eating real food, restaurant food is never good. I can hardly stand my husband’s yearly Christmas party at the Hilton or Marriott for that matter. Once in a while we will go to a nice restaurant to eat and spend a fortune and leave saying why did we do that! All the food tastes the same!
Do yourself a favor and eat at home and compost your own organic, I hope, scraps and don’t buy “garbage compost” from restaurants dumpsters which has got to be the worst place ever to get your produce for compost. Be more self sufficient!
Okay… I’ll get off my soap box now… have a nice day! ;o)
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
I agree with much of what you say in this comment for sure. However, I do think that Chinese restaurant food is some of the worst food of all that you can eat when you are out so EcoScraps point about the deadly Chinese restaurant compost is a valid one.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
We are talking about the food and the preparation of it .. NOT the people who work there who oftentimes are not even Chinese! I think it is important to also point out that it is the Americanization of Chinese food that is horrible. Traditional Chinese food is fantastic.
Thank you for the last statement! American Chinese food is absolutely yucky!
@Kelly, I’m pretty sure they were just having some fun. But there is some truth to it… I lived in Taiwan for a year and half and saw a man slaughtering a dog out behind a restaurant once. I must have looked like I was going to scream, because he put his finger to his lips “Shhh.”
I know people from Asian countries that have eaten cat and dog. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, anymore than eating a cow or a pig (anathema to some groups!), but it’s our culture that makes it so.
Thank you!! I bet Hindus think we are wrong for eating cows.
Sarah Atshan via Facebook
I make all my Asian food at home b/c of huge amount of soy oil, wheat gluten, MSG and HFCS in Asian sauces. But i still get the urge to ask a few hard questions: a new hot pot place opened round here, I asked on their fan page if they used lard, (what is traditionally used in schezuan hot pot) they told me they didn’t want to give away any of their secrets. When I mentioned that its hardly a secret, and that not all Americans are afraid of animal fats. They deleted the whole thread. I can make it tastier and healthier anyways.
I have sadly discovered that restaurant animal fats have scary preservatives in them. So they may be only a little bit better than the rancid vegetable oils! It would be a very rare restaurant that would seek out fresh animal fat to cook in. And way to expensive for them! Bummer!
I don’t doubt there are a FEW reasons why it’s poisonous…but my mother was deathly (yes, DEATHLY) allergic to MSG and so purchased Chinese food was never possible for us…until there was a “MSG FREE” one that opened, and she ate theirs without a single trip to the emergency room. I can’t speak for all of them, obviously.