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
Dear Luke or anyone who is reading Lukes comment: #2 is true, concentrated salt does kill plants. But #1 is not true at all. Look up Bokashi method please. Meats and fish ARE good for the garden if they are properly broken down with the proper fermentation methods. And finally, I wouldn’t be suspicious of their motives honestly… its not about ethnicity, its about watching things compost and seeing the patterns.
So, the Chinese scrap compost kills plants. I see another business opportunity here. Sell THAT compost as a weed control product! Win Win!
I have several problems with this.
One: You should never compost meat, it increases anarobic bacteria and other dangerous bacterias that will kill plants because they kill off the beneficial organisms in the soil that help plants take up nutrients.
two: Did the students think to group “chinese food” versus all other food? because I find it hard to believe that they would compost just one ethnics roups food and then not do it to another. especially since that would not be cost effective at all.
three: The “scraps” from chinese food have heavier amounts of saly from soy sauce which is 98% salt. And salt draws water from plant cells but salt does not break down, so when you have lots of salty foods (assuming they did have the audacity to pick out one ethnic groupd food versus any other) the asian food has a much higher salt content simply from the salty seasonings used such as soy sauce, fish sauce, etc. etc. Salt added to soil will over salinate the soil leading to plant death because it draws water from the plant cells. BUT this could be present in any other cultures food as well.
four: the people that wrote this had no evidence that backed up the allogation of the compost killing the plant in 12 hours. In fct I would find it to be highly improbably that any plant would die in 12 hours especially if it was being transplanted which is the only way to get the compost to the roots. The compost may not have been the killer, it may have been false transplanting techniques since plants are so tempermental, even crimping the stem a tiny bit can prevent the plant from getting water, therefor leading to plant death and wilt. Giving the illusion that it was the chinease compost that killed the plant.
five: how many tests were done? only 1 test is not conclusive enough to claim that all chinese food is bad. Let alone say that all compost made from chinese food scraps will kill the plant.
six: when anything is fried in oil, or cooked in oil which the chinese use lots of but so do many other cultures: the oil does not break down, and will build up in the soil and prohibits plants from taking up nutrients because it blocks nutrient reseptors and also does not allow water to come near the roots.
That should make you think twice. Watermelons so chemically enhanced that they explode in the fields? Really? That’s just a little ridiculous, don’t you think?
Also, as for your comment about organic compost, is using human waste (if properly allowed to break down and if it’s from healthy people) that bad? After all, healthy animal manure is typically used for fertilizer here in Germany, especially on the “Bio” (organic) products. It smells terrible right after they spray, but it’s way fewer chemicals.
I did not even think about the no MSG really not meaning much since they do use the prepackaged sauces and such. Thanks so much for this info! Every now and then we get takeout Chinese, but we may not anymore! Chinese is sooo easy to cook at home anyway! We just had some tonight!
Nickole @ http://www.savvyteasandherbs.com
The Chinese food compost sounds disgusting. But it got me wondering – do we want to use any compost from 70 restaurants, grocery stores, produce wholesalers, and Costco stores? After all we don’t know what types of foods they’re using and it’s not like we can separate the good compost from the bad. It’s worth thinking about.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
That’s a good point Hannah. After finding out about EcoScraps, I would personally stick with homemade compost. Not even sure about organic compost as I think I read somewhere last week that it was made with human waste or something gross like that.
I know…completely off the subject!! One question – do you culture carrots? I tried the recipe in NT, but they were awful! Too salty by far!
My goodness, it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to find REAL food these days. Look at most of the so called raw cheeses and nuts that are actually pasteurized in the health food stores. Thank God for the real food movement that is fluorishing throughout the United States. If it wasn’t for concerned people who care about their health and the health of others, we all would probably have pasteurized, imitation meat with irradiated veggies for dinner.
composting meats? I think I’m missing something
I’ve come to that conclusion the past couple years after visiting the former Chinese restaurants I used to eat at.
There is an Asian market nearby, so if I get the taste for Asian food, it’s not hard to pick up a few things and make something myself. Fried in pastured lard of course. 🙂