Moon Shot


Tom Rohr
Food Loops CEO

No doubt you’ve heard the expression ‘reach for the moon’ or ‘howl at the moon’ or surely ‘once in a blue moon’.  Well there’s another moon phrase that’s gained traction the past several years — moon shot.  As in a moon shot goal.  As in, according to the Oxford dictionary: a difficult or expensive task the outcome of which is expected to have great significance.

Sound a bit daunting? Perhaps. But as you might imagine, moon shot goals aren’t something you expect to attain quickly.  In fact, moon shot goals are known for their long-range aspirations.  Case in point—our 25-year moon shot goal at Food Loops is to be part of the solution where 90% of all waste is diverted from landfills in markets we serve across the world.

In 2017 when initially assessing the food waste in NW Arkansas based on a City of Fayetteville study, we calculated that 40,000 tons of waste were sent to our area landfill each year.  Of that number, 30% was organic, or food waste. That meant food waste was a large enough problem to require a local solution—or at least it did to us. Not so coincidentally, Food Loops was born in November that same year, focusing on the capture/diversion of food waste. 

At the time, we also observed 50% of all food waste was commercial—think restaurants, schools, hospitals, small and large scale events—while the other half was generated by residential home & apartment dwellers.  Though we do address both aspects, Food Loops opted to primarily focus on diverting commercial food waste. 

Why commercial food waste you ask? Well, much like those who asked legendary 1930’s bank robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, to which he simply replied, “Because that's where the money is” we’re focused on the commercial side of the issue because that’s where the large-scale food waste is. 

In the years since we first came on the scene, we’ve found businesses aren’t just looking to divert their food waste, they also want to recycle their glass, plastic, paper, cardboard and aluminum. And with the help of our recycling partners, Ace Glass & Food Recycling Solutions, we’re doing just that to the tune of 400 tons of collected/diverted food waste, glass, cardboard, and plastic the 2nd quarter of this year alone. One percent of the overall goal may not sound too impressive, but not only is that 1% less than previously diverted, you gotta start somewhere.

In addition to capturing/diverting food waste & recyclables, we’re also a compostable products wholesaler.  Our compostable products—available for both commercial & individual use on our website—range from cold & hot cups, to plates, bowls & cutlery, to take-out containers. I challenge anyone to look at our products and find any physical difference between them and any non-recyclable, plastic or styrofoam product.

The difference, however, is quite stark in that our products are made from corn, wheat and sugar. Because of their makeup, these same products collected right along with food waste, can be processed into sustainable compost. Compost that can be used to grow food, which in turn can be collected to again be processed into compost to grow more food.  Hence the simple beauty of the food loop! 

We estimate 35% of the waste stream consists of one-use disposable items that could be replaced with compostable counterparts.  When Food Loops works with a business or an event, we’re able to recycle over 90% of all waste by 1) understanding the waste each event will produce using compostables where applicable 2) capturing waste in the most efficient manner and 3) insuring recycled materials flow through local facilities who properly process what’s been collected.  Think about that for a minute.  Ninety percent of what would have gone into the landfill can now be diverted and processed into functional materials.  

I realize this may all sound like a great pep talk, something noble to aspire to.  I also realize when it comes right down to it, we often think a problem of this magnitude, is well, a problem of great magnitude. Out of our reach.  After all, what can one person accomplish?

In a word—plenty.  You most likely recycle at home, which is great, but does your workplace recycle? Could you transition from styrofoam cups, plates, and plastic cutlery to compostables? Do you know if your favorite eating establishments capture food waste and/or use compostables? 

Do you plan or organize events—we’re talking anything from a wedding reception up through a major fundraising or other corporate event—that you would like to see become zero-waste?  These are all seemingly small steps to tackling the larger problem, but we welcome the opportunity to talk with you about any of these potential opportunities and the impact they can have.

Moon shot goals may not be part of your everyday conversations, but hey, it wasn’t all that long ago we couldn’t imagine traveling to Mars in the next 25 years.  Can you imagine a NW Arkansas where we begin to recycle 90% of our waste? 

We can.