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EPA Regional Administrator Tours Duluth Composting Facility, Highlights the Benefits of Reducing Food Waste

Release Date: 11/20/2014
Contact Information: Joshua Singer, 312-353-5069, singer.joshua@epa.gov

For Immediate Release No. 14-OPA120

(DULUTH, MINN. – November 20, 2014) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Susan Hedman highlighted the environmental benefits of diverting food waste from landfills today at the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District’s composting facility.

“The Western Lake Superior Sanitary District’s innovative composting program provides a terrific example of how we can turn food waste into a valuable asset, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Hedman said.

In 2012, U.S. residents threw away nearly 35 million tons of food. Food waste accounts for about 20 percent of the material in U.S. landfills. Decomposing food in landfills releases methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

WLSSD turns food scraps and yard waste from homes and businesses into high-quality compost, which can be added to soil to help plants grow. Making compost keeps food waste out of landfills. WLSSD also works with businesses to reduce the amount of food waste generated and encourages any surplus edibles to be donated to local programs to feed the hungry.

“Our successful composting program would not be possible without the sincere commitment of our region’s business community and residents,” said Heidi Ringhofer, WLSSD director of solid waste services. “We are all working together to reduce the amount of food that is wasted, and to use the resources that might otherwise be lost in landfills. We manage the waste locally, and the benefits of the recovered resources are enjoyed locally—improved soils, less environmental impact and reduced cost of our services.”

WLSSD processes nearly 8,000 tons of organic materials diverted from landfills each year. Nearly 200 businesses and institutions in the Duluth-Hermantown-Cloquet area divert food through feeding programs and to the composting facility. WLSSD also operates food scrap collection sites for area residents and small businesses. Through its composting program, WLSSD produces nearly 2,500 cubic yards of bulk and bagged Garden Green Compost, which is sold directly to the public and to regional garden centers.

A third of the food grown, harvested, and purchased in the United States is thrown away, which costs the average family of four $1,600 every year. In addition, 25 percent of the nation’s freshwater supplies go toward growing food that is never eaten.

For more information about food recovery: http://www.epa.gov/foodrecovery/

For more information about WLSSD: http://www.wlssd.com/