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New England Institutions Honored for Food Waste Recycling Efforts on America Recycles Day

Release Date: 11/15/2013
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – Nov. 15, 2013) - In honor of America Recycles Day, two colleges in Massachusetts and a senior living facility in Connecticut were honored this week by EPA for their success in keeping extra food out of landfills and getting it to people who are hungry. In addition, regional achievement awards were given to 12 other organizations in three New England states.

EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge invites organizations nationwide to reduce the amount of food they buy and throw out and to divert surplus food to feed people, thus reducing their environmental footprint. In New England, more than 50 stores, school, hotels, restaurants, sporting venues and other businesses participate in the challenge.

The University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Clark University in Worcester, Mass. and the Orchards assisted living community in Southington, Conn., were among the nine National 2013 winners of the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge.

“Through EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge, these New England Institutions are rethinking opportunities to reduce food waste going to landfills, and they are making a real difference for the environment and for their communities,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Sending food waste to a landfill represents a missed opportunity to reduce costs, protect the environment and help our neighbors.”

UMass Amherst has used several innovative solutions for reducing food waste. The school introduced tray-less dining, and more recently changed all to-go containers and cutlery to compostable material to increase waste diversion in over 20 dining establishments. The UMass dining services works with the University’s Office of Waste Management to reduce food waste. Students have proposed establishing a student-run composting business involving a bicycle pick-up service. UMass Amherst composts more than 1,400 tons of solid food waste, the largest solid waste recycled stream on campus. The University administration has committed to building one of the largest anaerobic digestion facilities in the state by the end of 2014. This facility, which uses food scraps, manure and other organic bases wastes will produce biogas that can be used for energy, will be used by other communities and colleges in the area and will produce green energy that can be used to decrease overall campus emissions.

Clark University has collected both kitchen food scraps and plate wastes from dining operations since 2007 and composting has become the norm for students here. Students in Clark’s EcoRep program have expanded the scope and scale of the program to keep food out of the waste chain. As a result, Clark installed 38-gallon commercial compost bins in freshman dorms this fall. The Clark Eco Reps piloted a composting effort in one dorm for two years. Waste audits showed that up to 60 percent of dorm waste was compostable. All freshmen will now be composting in the dining hall and in dorms from their first day on campus. Clark averages 500 pounds of waste per day per dorm.

Regional achievement awards were given to 12 other organizations in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont.

New Hampshire winners included Keene State College of Keene and Kheops International, Inc., of Colebrook. Massachusetts winners included Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, both in Cambridge; Genzyme, a Sanofi Company, with various locations in Massachusetts, and in Boston the following institutions: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Organics, the Boston Red Sox; TD Garden and Suffolk University. Vermont regional achievement awardees included Middlebury College in Middlebury and Supervalu New England-based Shaws and Vermont Fresh Grocery Stores. These New England participants diverted over 15,000 tons of food to donation and/or composting in 2012.

November 15th, America Recycles Day, is dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and buy recycled products. After paper, food comprises the greatest volume of waste being generated in the United States. Surplus food often comes off of shelves while it is still nutritious and safe and is sent to landfills. This food could potentially feed millions of Americans, according to both the Department of Agriculture and EPA. In 2010, more than 14 percent of households in the U.S. did not have regular access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Diverting food waste from landfills also reduces the generation of harmful gases that contribute to climate change. When food is disposed of in a landfill, it decomposes rapidly and become a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Food and food scraps not fit for consumption can be used to feed the soil by composting or added to anaerobic digestion facilities, which produce biogas that can be used for energy. In 2010, 34 million tons of food waste was generated with only 3 percent being diverted to composting. When excess food, leftover food and food scraps are disposed of in a landfill, they decompose rapidly and become a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Instead, anaerobic digestion facilities capture the gas and use it for electricity or for combined heat and power.

The Food Recovery Challenge is part of EPA's Sustainable Materials Management Program, which seeks to reduce the environmental impact of materials throughout its entire lifecycle.

More information on EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge: (http://www.epa.gov/smm/foodrecovery/index.htm)

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