Food Recovery Challenge Introduction
“WasteWise is celebrating its 15th year as the U .S . Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) flagship partnership program to reduce municipal solid waste (MSW) generated by businesses, organizations, and communities . The program has grown to include more than 2,100 partners and endorsers from every state, representing nearly 50 industry sectors . The environmental success of the partners’ efforts is tangible – 12 .5 million tons of waste were reduced in 2007 . This is equivalent to the annual GHG emissions from the energy used in more than 26 million households .” (source: www.epa.gov)
The Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) encourages diversion of food waste from landfills by following the EPA’s food waste hierarchy (see inverted pyramid above). All options are on the table, with compost in the lower rungs of the pyramid, and source reduction at the top. There are many stakeholders on our campus and community who can assist in reducing our overall production of food-waste.
April 26, 2012 Meeting at the University of Arkansas
Golam Mustafa, from the US Environmental Protection Agency, spoke with a diverse group of University and Arkansas stakeholders about the Waste Recovery Challenge. In attendance were representatives from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, UA Facilities Management, UA Office for Campus Sustainability. Washington County Environmental Affairs and Recycling, Chartwells, Feed Fayetteville, Fayetteville Public School District, Arkansas Energy Corps, and a co-chair of the University of Arkansas Foundations of Sustainability Minor.
Dr. Mustafa introduced the Food Recovery Challenge challenge, gave us some background information, and allowed some dialogue to occur amongst the group. The FRC is an EPA program that encourages institutions to create a baseline of their food waste, determine their current practices for reducing their food waste, and then setting goals for minimizing their waste over 2-3 years. Below is information on the yearly goals, taken from the EPA’s website:
Year One: Commit to at least a 5 percent increase in at least one of the three food diversion categories (prevention, donation, and composting) or alternatively, a combined 5 percent increase across all three food waste diversion categories. If partners have no data from a previous year for a category, they may select a site-specific goal.
Years Two and Three: Set site-specific numerical targets based on opportunities at your facility
This could be an excellent opportunity for the UA to give themselves a pat on the back for what they’ve already done and to develop a systematic plan for taking their efforts to the next level.
The meeting was brief, only about an hour long, but bringing everyone together sparked some interest in participating. Not only will we, as a university, be able to highlight our current efforts, but we will also be able to use this project as a spring board to discuss how we’re going to further divert food from ending up in our landfills.
On a side-note, Roger Lawrence from the ADEQ was also present and added to the conversation by addressing the 10 year solid waste plan in Arkansas. Essentially, this plan is being revisited soon and, if private and public entities are looking to take advantage of composting procedures on a local or regional level, they should voice their opinions to the ADEQ board who disperses funds to city municipalities. Industrial scale composting may be a viable option for long-term diversion for the University of Arkansas.
Annual Food Waste from the University of Arkansas
Last year’s food waste audit, which was a project of mine, suggests that the UA produces approximately 181 metric tons of food waste a year. The amount may be much larger. A 5% reduction would be about 9 tons, in accordance with the FRC 1 year goal. The Earth Tubs diverted about 2.5 metric tons from April to October (7 months). If the tubs can be operated effectively and efficiently throughout the year, they could divert about 12 tons a year (according to research compiled from UNC) between the two tubs but this will take further planning and recruitment of volunteers to operate the machines.
According to Chartwells, there was a significant drop in food-waste averages during Project Clean Plate! I intended to have this office publish a blog about the results but our plates have been very full (pun intended). Chartwells can also attest to the efficacy of trayless dining efforts. Chartwells achieved a 50% reduction in their waste disposal costs by initiating this simple policy change. Chartwells’ effort will be an integral part of the discussion on reducing food-waste.
- Register for Waste Wise
- Register for the FRC
- List current practices on our account
- Biodiesel project
- Full Circle Food Pantry Donations
- Trayless dining
- Conduct a food-waste audit
- Strategize on reducing food waste through source reduction
- Explore possibility of more food donations
- Explore possibility of industrial use for food waste
- Explore composting
- Identify logistical and structural barriers to resuming Earth Tub operations
- Identify potential for collaborating with city of Fayetteville
- Set goals for reducing overall food-waste