IC&I Food Rescue & Waste Diversion Pilot

Improving Management and Recovery of Food and Food Waste in the Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Sector

Municipalities collect household waste door to door in that is bound and determined by geographic clusters, which offers significant collection efficiencies.

Circular Innovation Council—with support from Our Food Future, the County of Wellington, and the City of Guelph—aims to mimic the municipal model of door-to-door waste collection in a pilot to test the viability and cost effectiveness of a regionally consolidated collection system for institutional, commercial, and industrial (IC&I) businesses.

Our also pilot offers the IC&I sector—Canada’s largest generator of food waste—the ability to recover food waste otherwise lost to disposal through a co-operative buying financial model that can be replicated and scaled by communities across the country. Through an innovative cost-share model businesses of any size and type may access affordable organics collection to eliminate food waste; produce valuable compost; reduce GHG emissions from landfill; and redistribute edible food to community partners.

As of the first week of November 2021 more than 50 businesses are testing a unique collection system and co-operative financial model to make organic waste collection affordable and food rescue attainable for businesses and institutions of all sizes through consolidation, collection, and redistribution efficiencies.

  1. Reduce cost of organic waste diversion by designing regionally consolidated collection route to improve efficiency.

  2. Reduce emissions by diverting food waste from disposal through shorter routes and densification.

  3. Increase social impact by recovering edible food to local community agencies for distribution.

  4. Develop a co-operative cooperative financial model to share costs and leverage business buying power, whereby organic waste costs are shared by participants based on amount of waste generated rather than per bin.

  5. Create a template and model that can be replicated in other communities across Canada.

It is estimated that individuals and households in Canada waste more than $10 billion worth of food annually. When taking into consideration manufacturing and processing that figure rises to $21 billion. Expanding the value chain to include infrastructure, (e.g., transport, restaurants, retailers) estimates peg the value of waste food at more than $49 billion annually.


While the economic costs of food waste are staggering, we must also consider the environmental costs. More than 30 percent of municipal waste streams are composed of food and organic waste. When organic material is sent to landfill to decompose it releases methane into the atmosphere, which is a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and is the single largest waste stream found in landfills.


As it relates to the source of material, municipalities, which generate 55 percent of food and organic waste, have long-established comprehensive curbside organics programs that leverage collection efficiencies from door-to-door services and in-home source separation built on continuous public education and outreach.


Conversely, IC&I / non-residential generators (e.g., retailers, stores, hospitals, food courts) have a different collection process where organic materials are managed independently on a facility-by-facility basis, which eliminates opportunities for collection efficiencies, economies of scale or standardized services of the residential sector. As a result, dedicated organics services for the non-residential sector can be cost prohibitive. In addition, of the 45 percent of organic waste generated by non-residential sources, 75 percent of it is lost to disposal.


Municipalities and First Nations have significant interest to reduce the amount of food waste and edible food lost to disposal in their communities because they play a lead role in building a prosperous, livable, and sustainable future for citizens. As a primary engine for growth, local governments can drive the circular economy agenda to realize important environmental, social, and economic objectives.  Municipalities play a critical role as catalysts by facilitating public and private partnerships where collective interests can be aligned.


In January of 2020, the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington officially launched Our Food Future, an ambitious initiative to create Canada’s first circular food economy. Funded by Infrastructure Canada, through the Smart Cities Challenge, its aim is to improve the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the regional food system.


Circular Innovation Council, the County of Wellington, and the City of Guelph, working alongside local private and public interests, are piloting an innovative regionally based co-operative model shared by the local food and food waste value chain to optimize organics recycling, improve food and food waste recovery, and mitigate food loss.

We are testing a co-operative financial model where costs are shared by all users through a buying consortium. By maximizing participation cost and service will be optimized.

Key elements of the model:

  • Shared services commensurate with size and use of each of the participants.
  • Scaled structure to meet individual needs of members.
  • Flexibility to accommodate the diversity and unique needs of members.

The University of Guelph will diligently track and report on a series of economic, environmental, and social indicators to measure impacts of the pilot, including:

  • Cost savings from consolidated collection and transport.
  • Total greenhouse gas emission reductions through optimized collection and diversion.
  • Edible food collected and delivered to food rescue agencies.
  • New employment opportunities due to increased diversion activities.
We are testing a co-operative financial model where costs are shared by all users through a buying consortium. By maximizing participation cost and service will be optimized.

The viability of this food waste reduction model has never been more urgent. Every year food waste lost to disposal generates more than 56 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. This circular pilot aims to reduce emissions by enabling businesses to affordably divert food from landfill, avoid methane production, and reduce pollution generated by transportation.

In addition, the pilot is incorporating social benefit by encouraging participants to redirect edible food to local food rescue agencies; and testing a co-operative financial model that shares costs equitably amongst its users.

The circular economy affords opportunity to simultaneously mitigate the effects of climate change, deliver social impact, and improve economic efficiency simultaneously. Through this pilot we aim to divert a greater amount of food waste from a sector that has chronically poor organics diversion rates due to its disaggregated inefficient service model and typically high costs. This model reimagines service that co-ordinates collection between neighbouring facilities, and enables a co-operative co-shared financial model. The desired result is less food waste, more composting, reduced transport emissions, and lower costs.

Jo-Anne St.Godard
Executive Director
Circular Innovation Council

This pilot is made possible through the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Food Waste Reduction Challenge: Business Models.

Organic waste is collected by WM and delivered to Walker Environmental’s All Treat Farms in Arthur, ON for processing into valuable compost for biodiversity applications.

Food rescue is enabled by Second Harvest’s Food Rescue App, which allows businesses to notify local charitable partners there is edible food available for collection at a negotiated time.

Pilot data analysis, including greenhouse gas emissions avoided, tonnes food waste diverted per IC&I subsector, and economic analysis of the pilot model will be verified by the University of Guelph.

The pilot, created by Circular Innovation Council and hosted by the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington through the Our Food Future program, is also supported by Clean River Recycling Solutions, Glad, Grand River Agricultural Society, Longo’s, and Skyline Group of Companies to bring circular economy solutions to the region.


Skyline Group of Companies began with one student rental house in Guelph, and has since grown to be a leader in the Canadian property management industry. We understand the importance of practising environmental stewardship in the communities in which we operate; we believe it is a “win-win-win:” for our tenants, for our business, and for the environment. We are proud to support this innovative pilot to build Canada’s first circular food economy in Guelph-Wellington and we invite other local businesses to participate.

R. Jason Ashdown
Co-Founder & Chief Sustainability Officer
Skyline Group of Companies

Longo’s is proud to support this initiative and to be part of the growing constellation of efforts to reduce food waste and greenhouse gas emissions in our community. Longo’s has already seen the results of our organic waste program which has been instrumental in managing our environmental impact for 20 years. There’s more work to be done, but we know the future is bright with sustainability at the forefront.

Pat Pessotto
Executive Vice President of Sustainability & Industry Relations

Katie Motta
Pilot Manager

Circular Innovation Council is a proud finalist of the Food Waste Reduction Challenge’s Business Model Streams, funded through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.





Become a Member

We offer collaborative opportunity and inspiration to redefine value in communities across Canada through showcase opportunities and putting circular economy concepts into action.

Pilot Lead
Pilot Host