By Laurie Solomon
I feel blessed to be a member of EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge team. We’re passionate about reducing food waste, which is a big problem. Americans tossed out more than 36 million tons of food in 2011, almost all of which ended up in landfills or incinerators. Despite all this wasted food, nearly 15 percent of U.S. households were food-insecure in 2012, meaning they didn’t know where their next meal would come from. And here’s one fact that I didn’t know before joining the team: food decomposes rapidly in landfills to generate methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The Food Recovery Challenge asks participants to reduce as much of their food waste as possible – saving money, helping communities, and protecting the environment.
My team recently congratulated nine participants for their significant contributions to reducing food waste in the U.S. in 2012. Wow, is it interesting to see how grocers, universities, sports venues, and other organizations responded. Take Clark University, one of this year’s Innovation Award winners – their composting pilot project discovered that up to 60 percent of dorm waste is compostable. Commercial-size compost bins are now on all floors of freshman dorms, as well as in the dining hall.
Cupertino, CA’s story is also really inspiring. It negotiated a five-year franchise agreement with its waste hauler to achieve a 75 percent waste diversion rate, meaning this waste wouldn’t end up in landfills or incinerators. The city identified higher rates of food waste collection and composting as the means to achieving this goal, and is making great progress. I am so inspired by the innovative actions taken by not just these two organizations, but all the winners of the Food Recovery Challenge awards. Read about the other wonderful winners on our website.
I’m proud to be part of a team that cares about the issue of wasted food and pleased that the team recognized nine organizations’ successful accomplishments.
About the author: Laurie Solomon started with EPA in 1987 and currently works in the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. Each Earth Day, Laurie dons the Garbage Gremlin costume to interact with elementary school children at her son’s former elementary school.