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General Motors’ Global Headquarters, a multi-office tower complex that sends no waste to landfills, now composts food preparation scraps from its various Renaissance Center restaurant kitchens for use in urban farming initiatives throughout the city.

Local composting startup Detroit Dirt collects coffee grounds and fruit and vegetable pieces and mixes them with herbivore manure, some of which ends up in a rooftop garden at the complex.

According to GM global manager of Waste Reduction John Bradburn, “landfill-free” isn’t a finish line. There are always ways – like composting – to improve a facility’s environmental impact.

The composting initiative started with 280 seat Italian restaurant Andiamo Riverfront, which has generated 12,000 pounds of food scraps since April. The initiative expanded in July to include Joe Muer Seafood, Presto Gourmet Deli, Coach Insignia, Coffee Beanery and Potbelly Sandwich Works. Restaurants in the building’s main food court are expected to join the movement in the fall. Approximately 51,000 tons is expected to be collected by year’s end.

“Our collection bin is on rollers, so our chefs can easily move it to our various prep stations,” said Brad Schmidt, executive chef, Andiamo. “You don’t realize how much waste you generate. We thought we’d fill one container a week, but we’ve been averaging two per day.”

GM collaborated with CBRE, the building’s property manager, to add 16 raised garden beds on the adjacent Beaubien parking garage rooftop. The beds – reused shipping crates from GM’s Orion Assembly plant – will be tended by building staff. The compost will help filter pollutants, absorb water and provide essential nutrients for healthy herbs and vegetables.

Leftover food waste from diners is converted to energy at a facility a few blocks away, creating renewable energy that powers other Detroit businesses.

Published in the September 2014 Edition of American Recycler News