From: Allison Winter, ENN
Published November 15, 2012 09:09 AM

Let's Celebrate America Recycles Day by taking the Food Recovery Challenge!

Today is America Recycles Day, a nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting recycling in the US. All across the country, thousands of events are being held to celebrate recycling awareness in communities.

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One way organizations are participating this year is by taking the Food Recovery Challenge. The Food Recovery Challenge is a voluntary program established by the EPA with a goal to cut the 35 million tons of food wasted nationwide annually by reducing unnecessary consumption and increasing donations to charity and composting.

Whether it's week-old leftovers, spoiled vegetables, or food you're just tired of eating, the average America throws away $2275 per year in unwanted food- and this food ends up in landfills where it decomposes to generate methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Nationally, food is the single largest material sent to landfills, accounting for 25 percent of all waste. By limiting wasted food, we have the potential to reduce methane emissions.

Instead of throwing away food, the Food Recovery Challenge emphasizes the use of composting. When compostable foods are put into composts piles, they break down faster and put key nutrients back into the soil. If you do not have the means to start your own compost heap, many organizations will often come and collect your leftover food scraps for a nominal fee.

For foods that are in surplus, the campaign suggests donations. A lot of supermarkets and restaurants that have expired or leftover food often throw these products away. However, donating these foodstuffs to the appropriate parties not only saves the food from going into landfills, but it also helps those in need. According to the EPA, in 2009, more than 14 percent of households in the US did not know where their next meal would come from, so it is important that we donate any and all leftovers.

Some examples of how organizations can implement food waste reduction programs is by including trayless dining, which reduces the tendency to take more food than can be consumed. For restaurants, management can modify their purchasing orders or pay attention to food that is left on diner’s plates. Individually, we can focus on portion control to not only reduce excess food waste, but to also save money.

Over 100 higher education institutions, grocers, businesses, cafeterias, and entertainment venues have signed up to take the challenge. Will you?

Find a recycling event for America Recycles Day.

Read more about the Food Recovery Challenge.

Food waste image via Shutterstock.

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