KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the kitchen crew at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art prepared for lunch on Monday, there's another operation going on outside.
While it's not as elegant as all the fine art housed in the museum, it's just as important.
"We produce a lot of food and there's also a lot of waste that comes with that food, and it kind of hurts to see all that food go into a trash that's going to a landfill," said Marcus Locke, executive chef of Rozzelle Court Restaurant. "So when KC Can came along and asked would I be interested in composting, I was 100 percent on board already."
Locke started saving his kitchen's food waste in May to give to KC Can Compost.
The organization makes stops at 35 restaurants, coffee shops, and living communities to collect their compost bins, which hold up to 400 pounds of food waste.
You can compost anything that comes from the earth, such as vegetables and fruits, paper, and coffee grounds.
"Since we've began composting, we've probably saved about 70 percent of our trash waste," Locke said.
The Nelson donates about 15,000 pounds of food waste per week.
Down the street, Crow's Coffee said it contributes about 350 pounds in coffee grounds per week.
The John Knox Village retirement community contributes 30,000 pounds of food waste per week, and has plans to extend the compost service to two more of its facilities next year.
"People like the Nelson, who started in May with us, have taken the equivalent of 14, 15 cars off the road for one year," said Kristan Chamberlain, executive director of KC Can Compost.
Since last May, KC Can Compost collected 75,000 pounds of food waste total.
"The methane that is being produced when we send food to the landfill is 26 times more potent than CO2, so the damage to our atmosphere, greenhouse gas emissions — it has a tremendous impact," Chamberlain said.
The idea to compost is a joint venture with Rev. Joe Colaizzi, director of Shelter KC, formerly the Kansas City Rescue Mission.
KC Can Compost not only helps reduce CO2 emissions, but employs people transitioning out of homelessness.
Joseph Johnson started driving the compost truck in November after he arrived in Kansas City last year with nothing but a backpack.
"I'm looking further in my future to developing even more as a person and human being, so they helped me a lot to get me a good jump start on my life," Johnson said.
Johnson said he has also learned about how food waste impacts our world and why it's important to recycle.
Locke said he would like to see the concept spread even more around the city and see every eating establishment with compost canisters.
"I think everyone needs to be doing it, as far as anyone who is producing food, because it's our responsibility to make sure we can sustain this food," Locke said.