Food Waste Diversion in Food Service Enterprises: An Analysis of Organics Diversion Plans in Austin, Texas

Jason Umlas, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Food waste diversion can impact a range of public health concerns including food insecurity and climate change mitigation. As a major component of municipal landfills, food waste produces greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change. Reducing food waste is a critical goal under Austin’s Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO), which requires all food service enterprises to implement a food waste diversion plan and file an annual Organics Diversion Plan (ODP). The purpose of this study was to identify trends in the diversion efforts of businesses of different sectors and sizes and to develop baseline adoption rates for each strategy by sector by analyzing the ODPs filed in 2017 and 2018. A second purpose was to study the real-world implementation of organics diversion strategies among Austin’s food service enterprises using a case-study approach. The study relied on statistical methods such as the chi-square text, z-test and two-sample test of proportions to analyze the ODP data sets, and semi-structured interviews with business managers and owners to study ODP implementation. The study also confirmed that larger businesses were more likely to adopt organics diversion strategies than smaller businesses and found a statistical increase in the adoption of waste prevention and recovery strategies among businesses which filed both years. The case study process revealed that businesses were using novel service providers such as diversion management companies to meet the diversion requirements. Quantitative research was limited by a small sample size, an incomplete data set and a lack of granular data; future surveys should collect more detailed information for further statistical analyses. The results of this study can inform future research and help improve outreach efforts to encourage organics diversion among Austin’s food service enterprises.

Subject Area

Public health|Public policy|Sustainability

Recommended Citation

Umlas, Jason, "Food Waste Diversion in Food Service Enterprises: An Analysis of Organics Diversion Plans in Austin, Texas" (2018). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI10790377.