Greening Tribal Casinos
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Case Study #1
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in western North Carolina started a pilot project to compost food scraps from its casino and three restaurants after they opened in 1997. The tribe collects more than 1,200 pounds of food scraps for composting each day from the casino and restaurants. The tribe sells the final compost product to landscapers, nurseries, and homes both on and off the reservation.
Case Study #2
Unlike most composting programs, which are created solely to divert waste from disposal, the Ho-Chunk Nation started its program as a health initiative to address a major concern diabetes. In just a little over a year, the Ho-Chunk Nation, a tribe in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, has diverted more than 7,300 pounds of food scraps from landfills to a community compost site. Through this work, the Nation found a way to address not only its impact on the environment, but also the health of the community by encouraging gardening, healthier living, and better food choices. For more information, please visit the EPA Ho-Chunk Nation’s Composting Improves Human Health and the Environment page.
Case Study #3
Food scraps can also be fed to animals. Although not a casino, Rutgers University is home to the third largest student dining operation in the country. Dining facilities serve over 3.3 million meals and cater more than 5,000 events each year. Rutgers boasts one of the best and oldest food recovery programs in the country, beginning in the 1960s, when dining operations generated more trash than facilities could contain, even with daily pickup. The solution? Divert food scraps to a local farm for use as animal feed. For more information, please see Feeding Animals - The Business Solution to Food Scraps (PDF). (2 pp, 766K, About PDF)
Composting reduces the amount of material that would otherwise be disposed of. There are many benefits to composting. The main benefits are:
- Waste Diversion
- Climate Change Mitigation
- Money Saving
For more information on the myriad benefits of composting, please visit EPA’s composting benefits page.
Organic waste (food scraps, yard trimmings, and soiled paper) at casinos accounts for a significant amount of the waste stream. For example, the Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort conducted a waste stream analysis and found that 37.5% of the waste stream was food scraps. At a casino, there are multiple options for the management of compostable materials, many of which can save money from deferred landfill tipping and hauling/transportation fees, particularly if materials will be handled on site. Although yard trimming and grass clipping composting programs are fairly typical, other types of composting programs are not yet widespread. Did you know that a handful of tribal casinos are collecting food waste from casino restaurants and even paper towels from facility bathrooms for composting programs? Because food scrapes are often the heaviest portion of a casino’s waste stream, they tend to be the most expensive to transport and dispose of. Collecting food scrapes may be a way to cut costs, significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and produce a material that can be used at the facility for landscaping or erosion control, particularly if the material is processed onsite.
- To read about what other tribes are doing, please visit the Tribal Waste Journal: Tribal Composting Nourishes Land and Tradition (PDF) (28 pp, 981K, About PDF) or the Tribal Composting Projects Across the U.S. article which summarizes a number of tribal composting programs.
Casinos have several options when considering starting a waste program and should design the program based on the specifics of the facility. Composting programs can be divided into on-site and off-site programs:
- On-site Composting
- Hauling to Commercial Composter
The Eastern Band of Cherokee of North Carolina has a composting program, which accepts biosolids and food scraps. To learn more, please see the Composting Operations at Cherokee Tribal Facilities (PDF) (3 pp, 482K, About PDF) document.
EPA developed the Food Waste Management Cost Calculator to help facilities such as casinos estimate the cost competitiveness and diversion rates from alternatives to food waste disposal, including source reduction, donation, composting, and recycling of yellow grease.
Fats, oils, and greases from restaurant activities can also be recycled into biodiesel or composted. Biodiesel is an alternative fuel produced from domestic, renewable resources. It is safe to use in any diesel engine and is more sustainable and far less polluting than conventional petroleum diesel. Biodiesel significantly reduces asthma-causing soot, greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide in air emissions. Along with creating less pollution, biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable and non-toxic. Produced from renewable resources such as waste cooking oil or soybean oil, biodiesel reduces dependence on limited energy resources and foreign oil. The "fat to fuel" process recovers energy and recycles waste oils that are either dumped in landfills or flushed down drains, clogging pipes and causing costly sewer spills. For more information, visit EPA’s biodiesel page.
The National Restaurant Association published an article entitled "Greening of the Restaurant Industry." The article contains information on how the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut is reducing waste through composting.
The following websites provide general information on composting, tribal case studies, and specific information about completing a casino composting project.
- Putting Surplus Food to Good Use; A How-to Guide for Food Service Providers (PDF) (2 pp, 1.1MB, About PDF)
- Waste Reduction Tips for Hotels & Casinos in Indian Country (PDF) (6 pp, 602K, About PDF)
- Fine Dining Returns to the Earth - Success Story (PDF) (2 pp, 971K, About PDF)
- EPA GreenScapes Program