Lions & Tigers & UFOS—Oh My!

Lions & Tigers & UFOs—Oh My!  

If you’re at all involved in the food-waste world, there’s a word you hear in almost any conversation when talking to someone in the business.  And that word is contamination.

I remember the first time I heard it, it just about stopped me in my tracks.  I grew up working on my family’s farm in western Kansas so that’s saying something.  But still, you hear the word contamination and most people’s first instinct is “Whoa—keep that stuff away from me.”  This is especially true when you consider Webster’s definition for contamination is “the action or state of making or being made impure by polluting or poisoning.”  

It became clear to me from the get-go if we were ever going to be successful in sorting and recovering recyclable waste, we needed to replace the term contamination with something new.  Enter the Food Loops term UFO.  Not the UFO as in extra-terrestrials, but UFO as in Unwanted Foreign Object. As in something that’s found in an otherwise viable waste stream that’s not recyclable like an aerosol can, or a metal fork that accidentally gets tossed in with food waste, or any of a number single-use plastics or styrofoam products that are non-recyclable.

Unfortunately, I’m not the only person who gets stopped by the word contamination.  In the waste world, contamination has become synonymous for ‘pack it in’, ‘give it a rest’, or worse yet—'don’t bother’.  After all, why bother sorting anything when it’s so much easier just to throw it all away?

Of the many things you can say about Food Loops, looking for the easy way out is not one of them.  With our stated mission of 90% diversion in the forefront of all we do, we power through waste in search of those dastardly UFOs.  One might even say finding and removing UFOs is a passion of ours.

Whatever they may be, this one simple change from the term contaminant to UFO makes all the difference for us.  Why?  Because it empowers us to remove them from the waste stream—whether from a 68 person wedding reception or a 68,000 person national college football championship game. Either way, we know we can do it because Food Loops has actively participated at both, and everything in between.

Planning an event, or work in an office, school, or restaurant you’d like to see move toward zero-waste?  Call us.  

Talk of UFOs may scare some, but to us they’re just part of identifying the solution.

Tom Rohr

CEO Food Loops