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Hawaiian schools join EPA compost challenge

As part of the agency’s expanding efforts to reduce food waste across the state of Hawaii, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recognizing the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH), Kapiolani Community College (KCC) and Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) as the newest participants in the agency’s Food Recovery Challenge program.

As participants, UH, KCC and HPU join over 90 other colleges and universities nationwide in pledging to reduce wasted food. In addition to higher education institutions, other participants include grocers and entertainment venues, such as professional sports venues.

“Food waste that ends up in landfills is a particular problem for Hawaii, where disposal capacity is very limited,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

Nationally, food waste is the single largest type of waste sent to landfills and incinerators, accounting for 25 percent of all materials sent to landfills and incinerators. When excess food, leftover food and food scraps are disposed of in a landfill, they decompose and become a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In turn, limiting wasted food will reduce methane emissions.

Communities and businesses across the nation are working toward zero waste to landfills and incinerators to protect the environment and create local jobs. Zero waste initiatives design and procure products that reduce waste and implement strong reuse, recycling and composting programs. Many zero waste communities are reaching over 50 percent diversion from landfills and incinerators, with some achieving as high as 80 percent diversion.

“The University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) and Kapiolani Community College have had a great year by assisting with the drafting of the first sustainability policy of the UH system. The UHM Sustainability Council the UHM administration also followed through with a commitment to ban styrofoam containers at on-campus dining locations,” said Doorae Shin, of the university’s campus wide Hawaii Student Sustainability Coalition. “A system wide sustainability policy in its final stage and momentum is building up to ensure that our campuses practice environmental stewardship.”

Key Hawaii Food Recovery Non-profit Partners include: Rewarding Internship for Sustainable Employment (RISE), which provides paid internships to implement a variety of sustainability projects across the state including a food recovery internship; Aloha Harvest, which gathers quality, donated food and delivers it free of charge to social service agencies feeding the hungry of Hawaii; and The Green House, which runs programs to support sustainable living, gardening and recycling.

The Food Recovery Challenge is part of EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Program, which seeks to reduce the environmental impact of food and other widely-used everyday items through their entire life cycle, including how they are extracted, manufactured, distributed, used, reused, recycled, composted and disposed.