VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — From scraps to soil, local restaurants are teaming up to find a sustainable way to dispose of food waste.
Drishti Compost is a Virginia Beach non-profit that formed earlier this year with the goal of creating a place where local restaurants, schools and hotels can bring their food scraps and food waste so it doesn’t go to the landfill.
Right now, their operation is pretty small, but they’re hoping to see the organization continue to grow.
“What we did before was just throw it in a trash can and every time we did it, we just felt awful about doing it because then you’re taking it in the dumpster and never seeing it again, versus being able to replant it and develop good soil from it,” said GoJuice Owner, Jake Wareing.
Wareing says before they started composting, a lot of these food scraps would just go in the trash. Now, he and his staff are working to feed it back to the earth.
“It’s cool to see it actually starting to happen when all your stuff becomes waste free,” said Wareing.
Wareing and Lily Sutch have been working together to pick up food waste from 8 different restaurants in Virginia Beach in their own cars, then they bring it here to compost on Farmer John Wilson’s land in Pungo.
The restaurants include: Commune, Hearth, 1608 Crafthouse, Session, Lovesong, American Brew, GoJuice and The Coop.
Sutch owns “The Coop” food truck and makes dozens of breakfast burritos each week, but had no place to take unused food scraps other than throwing them in the trash.
“We had egg shells, bread rhines, coffee grinds and all of this food waste that is great compost material and thought unless I take this home, there’s nothing else I can do with it,” said Sutch.
Legally, restaurants can compost on their own land, but many don’t have the resources.
“More of like a conversation became this major goal of let’s get land, let’s permit it, let’s have this done the right way basically so that large scale places can take all of their food waste there,” said Sutch.
So that’s when Sutch worked to form the non-profit, Drishti Compost, with the goal of creating a place where local restaurants, schools, hotels and other businesses can bring their food waste, so it doesn’t go to the landfill.
“A lot of people think, doesn’t it just decompose there? Well, it doesn’t. It’s trapped in layers of plastic, and other waste, which a.) not only is a waste of the nutrient itself, but b.) releases methane gas, co2, all of these heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere and into the climate,” said Sutch. “There’s also the fact that we can bring it back into our own community and turn it into compost and once we do that not only do we have something we can garden with and sell but compost in itself is so much better than fertilizer.”
“They say 40% of all food grown or eaten is all wasted,” said John Wilson. “That’s almost half. We’re taking all of these otherwise trash ingredients and making them into good compost.”
Farmer John Wilson has been composting since 1994 and uses a lot of the soil he’s created over the years to garden.
“Composting is taking raw materials whether they be food scraps or manures or leaves, yard waste and taking them halfway to the point of being pure soil,” said Wilson. “We are letting the natural process of microbial decomposition or digestion do all the work.”
Wilson says no one else is doing it like they are and believes there are a lot of benefits from growing vegetables from composted soil.
“There are many benefits to the water, to the air, to the human eating the food out of the composted soil,” said Wilson.
“What we do is we collect the food scraps, the donated manure, straw and hay and using Farmer John’s ratios we decide what pile needs what and when,” said Sutch.
They also add water, and oxygenate by turning it every day.
Sutch says they’ve started conversations with the City of Virginia Beach and state officials about the importance of composting, but in the meantime, they’re hoping to find more land to expand their current operation to help make Hampton Roads a more sustainable place.
“We can stop importing fertilizer and stop trying to find better access to water and just compost what we already have here,” said Sutch.
“We just don’t have the facility to do it right now or the infrastructure to do it and that’s why were trying to work with the city as far as developing a good partnership to be able to compost,” said Wareing.
“The more people we spoke to, the more we realized really we need the land and once we have the land, then we need the local support, and once we have the local support, we need the state support which is the DEQ,” said Sutch.
Keeping the vision, or drishti, on something bigger.
“If you’re doing yoga, you pick a drishti to focus on which could be a point on the floor or something on the wall, you’re focusing on that, but really there’s something behind that that you’re trying to achieve,” said Sutch. “For us, drishti means the focus is composting, but the goal or bigger picture is soil, humans, food waste, sustainability.”
“One of my values is I feel very strongly about giving back to nature,” said Wareing. “It’s the only thing we really have is to look after our earth.”
Right now, the group runs completely off of donations and volunteers coming in to help with physical labor.
If you’d like to help with their mission, visit their website to see how you can get involved.
Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.