How Can We Better Manage the Food We Throw Away? GORE Cover Technology May Have the Answer

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately 95% of our food waste ends up in the landfill (1). By reducing wasted food, we can save money as well as contribute less to greenhouse gas emissions. The decomposition of our food waste creates methane, which may seem less innocuous than carbon dioxide, but its global warming potential is 34 times greater than the latter (2).

How can we better manage the food we throw away? Composting can close the loop of waste management. However, composting the traditional way in a typical backyard pile could potentially take months or up to more than a year. Some composting facilities have adopted the GORE® Cover Technology, which is a system that controls the release of odors and greenhouse gases from the decomposition process.

GORE Cover Technology, a large cover that is sealed over the compost piles, has an input volume range from as little as 2,000 to more than 200,000 tons per year.  It can be used to process a variety of green waste, food waste, biosolids or municipal solid waste (MSW)3. Due to its ability to trap odor and moisture, the cover can accelerate the composting process, converting waste to compost in eight weeks, with the aid of an in-floor aeration process 4.

The GORE Cover is both cost-effective in installation and maintenance. It can ultimately accelerate the decomposition process to potentially produce high-quality compost, create a return on investment, and reduce operational cost. It has been approved and utilized in more than 150 composting facilities and more than 20 countries 3.

A single GORE Cover costs about $75,000 and covers one ‘heap.’ A standard heap is 26 feet (8m) wide at the base, 165 feet (50m) long and 10-12 feet (3 – 3.5m) in height. Each heap contains approximately 1,000-1,200 cubic yards of composting material 5.

Table: Capital Cost Outline for a 40,000 ton/year (16 covered aerated piles) GORE Cover composting plant 6. This figure derives from a study by Columbia University conducted in 2009.

Capital Cost Category Cost ($)
General $150,000
Site Work $ 150,000
Paving $ 1,000,000
Concrete $ 600,000
Buildings $ 500,000
Leachate System $ 100,000
Storm Water System $ 300,000
Electrical Equipment $ 400,000
Equipment $ 1,500,000
Engineering $ 200,000
Legal $ 200,000
Gore Cover System $ 2,250,000
Total $ 7,350,000

Below are some GORE Cover projects throughout the US that highlight the variety in size and intake each composting facility holds, as well as the estimated capital costs of the project.

Project Name Size (Footprint in Acres) Tons Per Year Capital Cost
Build it Green (BiG! Compost), NYC (7) 0.5 acre (with a 10,000 sq
ft composting area)
315 tons
Miramar Greenery, San Diego, CA* (8) Miramar Greenery, San Diego, CA* 8 64 tons N/A
Prince George’s County, Maryland (9) 200 acres (52 acres is paved asphalt) 1,500 tons $170,000
Cedar Grove Composting,Everett, Washington (10) 26 acres 50,000 tons of food scraps + 275,000 tons of yard trimmings $20M (estimated) (11)
LA County Sanitation District (Tulare Lake Compost) 175 acres 1,000,000 tons (500,000 wtpy,biosolids and 400,000 tpy amendments, with current buildout designed for,100,000 wtpy biosolids, and currently receiving about 32,000 wtpy biosolids)* $100M (estimated)

*GORE was implemented in the Miramar Greenery composting facility for an eight-month pilot project in 2009, which consisted of two windrows of compost. The facility itself is 74 acres and can process up to 250,000 tons of organic waste per year.

*wtpy = waste tons per year

The GORE Cover Technology is available for purchase from multiple suppliers throughout the country.

With the continued support from the Walmart Foundation, Global Green was able to analyze Food Waste Solutions

1 "Reducing Wasted Food At Home." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web.

2 Matt De La Houssaye and Rebecca Miller. "Why Methane Matters." (n.d.): n. pag. Global Green USA. Web.

3 “GORE® Cover For Organic Waste Treatment” GORE®. GORE® Creative Technologies Worldwide, n.d. Web.

4 “Composting with GORE® Cover Technology.” GORE® GORE® Creative Technologies Worldwide, July 2017. Web.

5 W. L. Gore & Associates.“The GORE® Cover System: Membrane Covered Positive ASP Composting Technology.” GORE® Astoria Organics, 2014. Web.

6 Rob van Haaren. “Large
 source­ separated 
contextual effects.” Department of Environmental Engineering, Columbia University, August 2009. Web.

7 Louise Bruce. “The Evolution Of New York City's Big!Compost.” BioCycle, 14 Nov. 2014. Web.

8 City of San Diego, Environmental Services Department. “SWANA Composting Systems Excellence Award. Miramar Greenery Composting System.” Environmental Services Department, 2011. Web.

9 Nora Goldstein. “Food Scraps Composting At County Yard Trimmings Site.” BioCycle, 18 June 2015. Web.

10 Brooks, Diane. “Cedar Grove Composting in Everett Creates Compost Using Gore Cover Technology.” The Seattle Times, The Seattle Times Company, 22 Apr. 2008. Web.

11 Louise Bruce, speaker. “Closing the Loop: Compost for Fun, Farms, and Finance!” Notes. Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders, July 2013. Web.

Conchita Widjojo