Nebraska Farmers Union creates program to help divert waste from Lincoln Landfill

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) In the next 16 years, the Lincoln Landfill off Bluff Road is expected to be full, which is part of the reason the Nebraska Farmers Union decided to create a pilot program to divert food waste.

John Hansen, President of Nebraska Farmers Union said, "Products that would normally go to the landfill in Lincoln, about 16% of total volume is food waste."

As an organization that produces food in the first place, Hansen said this seems wasteful. "We are creating a landfill cost and a problem that need not to be there."

Nebraska Famers Union Enterprises goes by the trade name "Big Red Worms" (BRW). The program diverts food waste streams from LPS, restaurants, brew pubs and animal compost from the Lincoln Zoo and area horse barns.

According to Hansen, the food waste and other organic waste that is collected will be fed to worms after it has been pre-composted. The worms produce vermicompost castings that will be used for gardens, organic food production and specialty crop producers.

Hansen said, gardeners love it, especially crop folks I'm sure are going to like it. We're turning a negative into a positive." While the group is in the process creating the pilot project, they hope to get to the point to be a commercially viable operation and plan on fine tuning the current model. Hansen said, "If it works it would be great for other rural communities to use."

The City Public Works and Utilities Department awarded $14,750 to the Nebraska Farmers Union to upgrade its receiving area to more efficiently mix organic waste for its "Big Red Worms" vermicomposting program. The program began in August 2015 and is currently collecting over 10 tons of food waste per month, with plans to double that amount.

More information on the grant program is available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: solid waste).