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Nothing’s leftover from RenCen restaurant scraps … they end up in composts and even power businesses

Detroit Dirt team members, Rachel Anderson, Pashon Murray, founder, and Shannon Steel, pick up bins of food scraps collected from restaurants at the GM Renaissance Center (Photo courtesy of General Motors

If you eat at restaurants in the RenCen the scraps from your meal could help grow more food, revitalize neighborhoods and even power local businesses.

Here’s how it works.

General Motors is expanding its sphere of influence from the auto industry to the world of agriculture by donating the food scraps from restaurants in the Renaissance Center to local urban farmers.

Pashon Murray, founder of compost company Detroit Dirt, adds hay to a composting pile that has just been filled with food scraps from the GM Renaissance Center

Pashon Murray, founder of compost company Detroit Dirt, adds hay to a composting pile that has just been filled with food scraps from the GM Renaissance Center (photo courtesy of General Motors)

The various restaurants will collect a variety of food scraps and give them to Detroit Dirt, which takes the coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable remains from these local eateries, mixes them with herbivore manure and sends the final product to urban farm throughout Motown. Some of it even ends up in a rooftop garden at the RenCen.

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

“Detroit Dirt has partnered with GM for the last couple of years on facility composting initiatives that feed projects like Cadillac Urban Gardens in southwest Detroit,” said Detroit Dirt founder Pashon Murray, who was recently named one of 13 women entrepreneurs to bet on by Newsweek. “Companies like GM are getting their hands dirty and demonstrating a sustainability mindset. These urban gardens contribute to Detroit’s renewal and help revitalize our neighborhoods.”

The initiative began with a single Italian restaurant, Andiamo Riverfront, back in April.  Since then the equivalent of an elephant has been collected in food scraps. Those 12,000 pounds were only the beginning. In July the Italian eatery was joined by Joe Muer Seafood, Presto Gourmet Deli, Coach Insignia, Coffee Beanery, and Potbelly Sandwich Works with the food court in the RenCen expected to join in the fall.

If one elephant sounded impressive, the combined efforts are expected to yield 51,000 pounds of refuse by the end of the year to be spread among many of Detroit’s urban farms.

Andiamo’s, for example, takes all the scraps from peeling carrots, onions and potatoes after chopping and peeling and scrapes them into a special container Detroit Dirt picks up every morning.

“Our collection bin is on rollers, so our chefs can easily move it to our various prep stations,” said Brad Schmidt, executive chef at 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 a day.”

Andiamo Executive Chef Brad Schmidt chops vegetables and deposits the leftovers in a compost

Andiamo Executive Chef Brad Schmidt chops vegetables and deposits the leftovers in a compost (photo courtesy of General Motors)

GM also collaborated with CBRE, the building’s property manager, to add 16 raised garden beds on the adjacent Beaubien parking garage rooftop.  Shipping crates from GM’s Orion Assembly plants act as the beds for the herb and vegetable garden. The compost will help filter pollutants, absorb water and provide nutrients. The garden will be tended by the building staff.

“Our tenants believed in our mission to make the Renaissance Center landfill-free and continue to support ongoing sustainability efforts,” said Claudia Killeen, GM manager of Renaissance Center development.

GM has 111 land-fill free sites. At 5.5 million square feet, the Renaissance Center, which is its global headquarters, is by far the largest.  It houses the Western Hemisphere’s tallest all-hotel skyscraper, 11 other businesses, 20 restaurants and 27 retailers and boasts 12,000 office workers and 3,000 visitors daily. GM’s global headquarters sends no waste to landfills.

John Bradburn, GM global manager of waste reduction, says “land-fill free is not a “finish line” and GM will continue to find ways to improve a GM facility’s impact on the environment.

– Video courtesy of General Motors

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