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EPA Programs Divert More 7.3M Tons of Food Waste from Landfills

Cheryl McMullen

November 23, 2015

3 Min Read
EPA Programs Divert More 7.3M Tons of Food Waste from Landfills

In 2014, nearly 800 governments, businesses and organizations participated in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Food Recovery Challenge, including grocers, educational institutions, sports and entertainment venues and restaurants. Participants diverted food waste from landfill or incinerator by donating excess foods to food banks and shelters; composting in urban settings; re-using trimmings in university dining settings; and using wasted food to produce electricity.

The EPA is recognizing the waste reduction accomplishments of 29 participants in and endorsers of the EPA’s WasteWise program and Food Recovery Challenge. The initiatives decreases wasted food and municipal and industrial wastes, by applying sustainable materials management practices, leading to economic and environmental improvements.

Food Recovery Challenge participants diverted nearly 606,000 tons of wasted food from entering landfills or incinerators in 2014, nearly 88,600 tons of which were donated to people in need.

“These innovative efforts will help us achieve our ambitious national wasted food reduction goal—a 50 percent reduction by 2030. I encourage other organizations to follow their lead by joining the Food Recovery Challenge,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response in a press release.

The EPA provides tools, resources and support to help participants establish baselines, set objectives, track progress and realize their waste prevention and reduction goals. The EPA reviews the data submitted by participants by employing an extensive quality assurance process. 
Food Recovery Challenge participants and endorsers are awarded in two categories: data-driven and narrative. The data-driven award recipients achieved the highest percent of wasted food prevention and diversion in their sector in 2014. Narrative award winners excelled in the areas of source reduction, leadership, innovation, education and outreach, and endorsement. 

University of California Santa Cruz is among those recognized as a narrative award winner in source reduction. University dining services monitors and tracks wasted food in the kitchen, from buffets and serving lines and plate waste.

Staff members use this information to adjust the amount and type of food they order and prepare. Dining Services trains kitchen staff to properly store and rotate ingredients, using the best preparation techniques to reduce wasted food. Staff pre-plates appropriate serving sizes and offers samples so diners take only what they will eat. They also educate students and staff about wasted food and waste reduction.

“We have been told by students that what they have learned while dining with us carries over when they go home, and they have become ‘waste warriors’ for their families and communities,” says Dining Services Sustainability Manager Clint Jeffries.

WasteWise participants also reported impressive results in 2014, preventing and diverting more than 6.7 million tons of municipal and industrial waste from being disposed. These colleges and universities, federal, local and tribal governments, businesses and non-profit organizations implemented a variety of waste prevention and recycling initiatives to both reduce waste and increase efficiencies throughout their operations.

The EPA recognizes WasteWise participants for annual improvement, overall improvement and waste prevention performance by sector in 2014. Additionally, the endorser award recognizes outstanding efforts to promote WasteWise as a means to help organizations reduce waste and promote overall sustainable materials management.

Among those WasteWise partners recognized this year is Toyota Motor North America. This is the third year Toyota sales and logistics facilities have been commended by the WasteWise program for reducing waste, increasing recycling and purchasing environmentally preferable products. 

In 2012, TMS facilities collectively recycled or avoided production of 98 percent of its trash—more than 99 million pounds. The company put focus on reducing waste and increasing efficiency in all of its operations, which results in lower costs for both Toyota and its customers.

About the Author(s)

Cheryl McMullen

Freelance writer, Waste360

Cheryl McMullen is a freelance journalist from Akron, Ohio, covering solid waste collection and transfer for Waste360.

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