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Recycling: It’s Also About Food

2013 November 15

John Martin

This isn't garbage, so don't treat it that way.

This isn’t garbage, so don’t treat it that way.

It’s America Recycles Day– a time for all of us to take a good hard look at what we’re throwing out, and committing to do less of it.

Here in NYC, recycling is a way of life. For people living in apartment buildings, walking your empties to that recycling room down the hall is a daily routine. For those living in houses, dragging those iconic blue bins out to the curb is one of the many ways you let your neighbors know you care. Although most of us wouldn’t think of throwing an empty bottle in a regular old trash can, tons of trash still piles up every day across the City, to be shipped to landfills throughout the country.

A major culprit of this scourge? Food waste.

Americans throw out enough food every day to fill Yankee Stadium. Wasted food makes up 21% of the “trash” in our country, yet millions of Americans still lack consistent access to a safe and healthy diet. This thrown-away food burdens landfills and generates greenhouse gases. It also costs a lot, wasting an estimated $100 billion annually.

Thankfully, a growing number of businesses are doing their part to help solve this problem.

The EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) works with companies and other organizations to help reduce food waste by minimizing unnecessary food purchases, donating edible food to feed hungry people, and by composting. Here in the New York City region, over 10 organizations have signed up to become partners and endorsers of the FRC, with two New York City mainstays– D’Agostino Supermarkets, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden– signing up this past year.

These newest members are having a real impact already. D’Agostino, for instance, has donated 400,000 pounds of fresh produce, canned goods and prepared food to local food charity City Harvest this year. City Harvest has taken all of this food and distributed it to its network of soup kitchens, food pantries and other organizations that help feed hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers each week. Because of D’Agostino and City Harvest, more people are getting the nutrition they need, and the planet becomes a little bit cleaner in the process. It’s a win-win.

If you’re looking to make a difference this America Recycles Day, share what you’ve learned about the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge with your favorite grocery store or restaurant, or any other organization that may be interested in wasting less.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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One Response leave one →
  1. electra27 permalink
    December 15, 2013

    How did I become a recycler, whatever it may be, whether food, material items such as clothing, furniture or even rescued cats? Short answer: from my mother, the ultimate recycler. Strapped with severe financial constraints, an uneducated immigrant from German, she started in this country with a hard work ethic & much ingenuity & resourcefulness. She knew if we didn’t make the best of what we had all four of us children and our father would all suffer.
    I heard like many of you the “finish your plate, there are starving people overseas…’ –it must have sunk in for in 3rd grade for an essay in school on what I would invent, I said a machine that would dry left over food so it could be shipped overseas.
    It helped that my mother worked in food all her life, so she knew the tricks of the trade. My siblings & I would always try to spot what was in the night’s meal that was snuck in as leftovers.
    As a college student, I read the book “Living more with Less” by the Mennonites, which gave multiple examples of how one could waste less & be more resourceful, including food. For instance, at a social gathering have limited choices of dishes so people wouldn’t be tempted to try everything & thus overeat. Many of these examples came from overseas. Also as a college student I lived overseas & there saw how poor people utilized their meager resources. It would later come to haunt me as it is hard to waste food when I have a distinct image of the starving, for example, in Lima Peru…. It doesn’t feel right to overeat or waste food when others are starving…
    My mother, once again, as a retired senior on a limited income in Florida, would tell me about her “special store” which turns out was a dumpster behind the supermarket where she & others would glean good food that was thrown out because of expiration dates or slight damage…
    Also since childhood, I have had an interest in China, so as a young adult during a course on China we saw a movie, and I was appalled to see the birth defects & rampant pollution. So when I think of all the stuff we are dumping, especially after reading “Garbology” & discovering how we are hurting our world and probably eventually will be eating carcinogens with non-compostable garbage….it makes me really want to conserve.
    These days I try to go to the supermarket every other day, & buy small amounts so that I can finish them before they spoil. I try to order children’s portions when allowed at eat out places, & I would really like to see a law that puts the portion size back into the hands of the consumer. Can the EPA or NYC government help with this? On Mondays I bring my non-used food to the recycle tent near our subway stop. It takes 2 minutes. & I feel good about it.

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