Jan 17, 2013 9:35 AM by Ryan Haarer

EPA challenges UA to reduce food waste by five percent

TUCSON- The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 34 million tons of food goes to waste every year and almost all of it goes to landfills. So they've challenged the country to change the way we think about trash.

They want to keep food waste out of landfills because besides the sight and smell the heaps of trash are bad for the planet.

"Methane as a greenhouse gas in our atmosphere is 20 times more potent than CO2. It's the worst greenhouse gas in terms of climate change," said Chet Phillips, graduate assistant for sustainability at the U of A.

He and a team of students created Compost Cats. They collect food waste in compostable bags from across campus, kitchens, and various restaurants and markets in Tucson.

The challenge set by the EPA is to reduce food waste by five percent this year. So in addition to composting the University will meticulously track how much food is coming in and out.

"We'll be working with every outlet to ensure we have just the right amount of food needed for a daily service, that we are reducing our waste in any way possible so that we are contributing to our bottom line food cost and the overall mission of reducing food waste," said Jon Levengood, retail dining manager at SUMC.

The U of A is not alone in its attempt to recycle. 18 universities in Arizona, California and Nevada have also vowed to meet the EPA food recovery challenge.

"It gives us a chance to do a little friendly competition with ASU and NAU in terms of who can compost more? Who can reduce food waste more?" said Phillips.

The university is constantly looking for new ways to reduce waste. Several Greek houses are looking to jump on the compost train this semester. All of that compost goes to local school gardens and farms in Tucson free of charge.


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