Sustainability Corner: EPA tour highlights UMKC’s food recovery efforts

Johanna Poppel

UMKC’s Food Recovery Challenge efforts were touted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Nov. 15 in recognition of America Recycles Day.

The Food Recovery Challenge, which asks participants to reduce food waste, is part of the EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Program.

This program aims to lower the environmental impact of materials through their life cycle, during which the material is extracted, produced, used and either recycled or disposed.

According to the EPA, 97 percent of the estimated 35 million tons of food waste generated in 2010 was thrown away in incinerators or landfills.

When food decomposes in landfills, it emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The Food Recovery Challenge encourages food waste reduction by: prevention, donation and recycling. A whole range of businesses, universities and non-profit organizations across the country have participated in the challenge.

The EPA provides resources on sustainable food management and recognition for participants. The challenges encourage food waste reduction by many different means, including better food purchasing methods and donation to hunger-relief organizations.

EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said UMKC is “a pioneer and leader in recycling.”

The Dining Services staff guided Brooks and UMKC administrators, faculty and staff on a tour through the Student Union’s food waste reduction practices.

The tour showcased designated bins for recyclables, trash and food waste for compost.

The tour also discussed the involvement with Missouri Organics and how food waste from UMKC is composted and reused as soil for local farmers.

Bob Simmons, associate vice chancellor of administration, said partnerships are key—such as the one with Missouri Organics, which picks up the compostable food waste from Dining Services.

“That relationship really helped us; we would have a huge gap if we didn’t have that partnership,” said Jody Jeffries, director of Student Union operations.

These partnerships extend beyond businesses that help UMKC reach sustainability goals, and include the university community itself.

“It is a collaboration with faculty, students, and departments,” said Sustainability Coordinator Kaye Johnston.

Faculty and staff expressed optimism for the future of sustainable practices on campus, and there was much discussion of UMKC’s growing sustainability efforts during the tour.

“The recycling rate is going up every year,” said geosciences professor Dr. Syed Hasan. “We jumped from 49th to 13th place in a national [recycling] competition.”

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