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UCR to Participate in EPA's Food Recovery Challenge

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University pledges to reduce food waste by 5% over the next year

RIVERSIDE — The University of California, Riverside has been recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for its participation in the national Food Recovery Challenge. As a participant, UCR pledges to reduce food waste by 5 percent over the next year.

UCR is one of 17 schools in the states of California, Nevada and Arizona, and one of 49 nationally, participating in the program.

“UCR sees the Food Recovery Challenge not only as a motivator for furthering our sustainability efforts, but also as another opportunity to engage with our community to the benefit of all,” UCR Director of Sustainability John Cook said.

According to Cook, the 5 percent reduction from the Food Recovery Challenge will be above and beyond the already substantial efforts made by UCR Dining Services to reduce food waste and water and energy consumption.

“Last year, UCR converted 15,000 pounds of waste oil into biofuels and composted 238 tons of pre-consumer food waste,” Cook said. “This year, we will look to reduce the total amount of waste by about 11.9 tons.”

Cook said that an awareness campaign about food waste and composting will be held in the dining halls in coming months to raise consciousness and encourage students to reduce the amount of food that is taken but not eaten. In that vein, Dining Services has already moved to a trayless dining model, which has not only reduced food waste, but also saved electricity and water.

Any uneaten food is diverted from the waste stream and taken by Athens Services to be composted by American Organics. Leftover, edible food is donated to the Inland Harvest Food Bank.

The EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge is a voluntary program that makes up a part of the EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Program. It aims to limit the 34 million tons of food wasted nationwide annually by reducing unnecessary consumption and increasing donations to charity and composting.

Nationally, food is the single largest material sent to landfills, accounting for 25 percent of all waste sent to landfills. 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.

The Sustainable Materials Management Program 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, and disposed.

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