The Massachusetts WasteWise Forum, co-sponsored by the U.S. EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), promotes the recovery of food for donation and composting at sporting events, convention centers and theaters. The forum was held yesterday at Fenway Park in honor of America Recycles Day (Nov. 15).
EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge invites organizations nationwide to save money through reducing, purchasing and lowering disposal fees for unconsumed food; supporting their community by diverting wholesome surplus food to feed people, not landfills; and reducing their environmental footprint and greenhouse gas emissions through sustainable food management.
“Through EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge, these three Boston-area businesses are rethinking opportunities to reduce food waste going to landfills, and they are making a real difference,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of the US 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.”
America Recycles Day is dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and buy recycled products. Increasing the rate of recycling helps to save energy, prevents pollution, offsets the use of resource-intensive virgin materials, reduces the need for disposing waste in landfills or with incineration, creates jobs and saves consumers money.
To support this effort, MassDEP sponsors “RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts,” a technical assistance program for businesses and institutions in the Commonwealth to maximize recycling, reuse, and composting opportunities.
“The three organizations being honored today are on the cutting edge of our food diversion and recycling efforts in the Commonwealth,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Food wastes and other organics shouldn’t be shipped to a landfill or an incinerator. They should be reused, composted, or turned into a source of renewable energy through the process of anaerobic digestion.”
The Massachusetts WasteWise program has 49 organizations, including the newest member, Blue Man Group at the Charles Play House. Among this year’s award winners, Fenway Park and TD Garden established robust food donation programs and composted most of their food scraps. The Colonnade Hotel has a comprehensive sustainability plan, including composting, waste reduction and recycling.
“Participation in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge is a win-win,” said Boston Red Sox Executive Vice President/Business Affairs Jonathan Gilula. “Food waste reduction through composting and food donation protects our environment, reduces disposal costs, and helps feed those in need. The Red Sox remain committed to making Fenway Park not only America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, but also one of its greenest.”
“The TD Garden is proud of our commitment to the environment and this recognition from EPA and Mass DEP,” said Amy Latimer, President of TD Garden. “As an organization, we have a robust environmental stewardship program called GreenPath that is embraced by our associates and extends to our patrons. Our participation in the ‘Rock and Wrap it Up!’ program has resulted in over 15 tons of food per season being donated to the Boston Rescue Mission and last year we produced 65 tons of biodegradable compost.”
“The Colonnade Hotel’s Green Team has done an outstanding job spearheading the hotel’s on-going efforts in sustainability, and it’s an honor to be recognized for our participation in the WasteWise program,” said David Colella, managing director and vice president of The Colonnade Hotel. “This initiative has helped us further enhance our conservation efforts, and through its success we hope to inspire other organizations to get involved and make a difference, too.”
After paper, food comprises the greatest volume of waste being generated in the United States. In fact, “waste food” is really a misnomer. Surplus food comes off of shelves while it is still good, 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.
Food and food scraps that are not fit for consumption and donation can be used to feed the soil by composting or added to anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities, which produce biogas that can be used for energy. In 2010, 34 million tons of food waste were 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, AD facilities capture the gas and use it for electricity or for combined heat and power.
Other Massachusetts participants in EPA's Food Recovery Challenge include: Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Suffolk University, Northeastern University, Clark University, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Big Y Food Inc, Boston Organics, Shaw’s Supermarket, Inc., Genzyme Corporation, Lathrop Retirement Communities and Camp Ramah New England. 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.