BioCycle June 2014, Vol. 55, No. 5, p. 6
New Reports Target Food Waste Reduction
On May 23, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) released Think.Eat.Save Guidance Version 1.0, a new tool designed to assist governments, local municipalities, private enterprises, and other interested parties develop effective food waste prevention programs. “This first-of-its-kind guidance document on food waste prevention provides the technical expertise and impetus needed for a wide range of actors to take advantage of existing wisdom, catalyze action, and get a head start in tackling this critical issue,” states UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. The guidance document presents detailed strategies for scoping, planning, delivering and measuring food waste prevention programs and activities at the national, regional, business, and household level.
The report builds on the “Think.Eat.Save: Reduce Your Foodprint” campaign that was launched in January 2013 by the same organizations, as well as other stakeholders. The campaign is intended to raise awareness on food waste, citing that at least one-third, or 1.3 billion tons, of food produced globally each year is lost or wasted, creating severe environmental and financial effects. Rescuing just one-fourth of wasted food could feed all of the world’s hungry people. The tool is titled “Version 1.0” to signify that it is a work in progress that will continue to develop as more countries trial the tools within the document. To further that mission, the UNEP and FAO are recruiting pilot countries and cities that do not have existing food waste reduction programs to test the guidance document tools over the coming years. They also are offering technical and strategic support to these pilot regions.
The Think.Eat.Save Guidance Version 1.0 tool has four modules: Module 1: Mapping and measuring of food and drink waste; Module 2: Options for developing national or regional policies and measures for food and drink waste prevention; Module 3: Developing and implementing programs to prevent and reduce household food and drink waste; and Module 4: Preventing and reducing food waste in the food and drink business supply chain (manufacturing, retail, hospitality and food service). To download the guidance document, visit: www.thinkeatsave.org.
On May 30, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released “The Reducing Wasted Food & Packaging Toolkit,” a guide to help restaurants, grocers, caterers and other commercial kitchen operations reduce costs and their impact on the environment. The toolkit features an Excel audit tool for detailed tracking of a facility’s food waste that has the ability to generate graphs and data summaries to help identify strategies for waste reduction. EPA Food Waste Assessment Tools
“Food Only” Rule Adopted In Portland, Oregon
In early 2014, the Portland’s regional governing body, Metro, revised the rules for its commercial organics program to phase in a ban of any nonfood items. As of November 1, 2014, Metro’s Central Garbage and Recycling Transfer Station will no longer accept regular or waxed cardboard as part of the commercial composting program. As of March 1, 2015, only food scraps will be accepted, excluding all compostable serviceware, paper towels and other paper products. Transparent and semitransparent BPI-certified compostable bags will be the only nonfood item accepted. The new ordinance states that “more than a trivial amount” of any banned item after the phase-in date will be grounds to send the contaminated load to the landfill. Metro explains that increased participation in the commercial composting program has led to an increased presence of noncompostable materials, which has become an increasing problem for processing facilities, effectively jeopardizing the entire program. Generators that contract with private haulers, and therefore do not send collected organics to Metro’s Central transfer station, are not subject to the food-only rule.
Biosolids Management Stats
U.S. EPA Region 9 recently compiled statistics on how wastewater treatment biosolids were managed in the state of California in 2013. A total of 723,000 dry metric tons (dmt) of biosolids were produced. Of that total, 402,000 dmt were land applied — 185,000 tons as Class A compost, 75,000 tons as other Class A products and 142,000 tons of Class B material; and 235,000 dmt were landfilled, of which 140,000 tons were used as alternative daily or final cover and 95,000 tons were disposed directly. Remaining management methods were: Surface disposal—22,000 dmt; Incineration—19,000 dmt; Deep well injection—10,000 dmt; Cement kiln fuel—3,000 dmt; Placed in storage—22,000 dmt; and Long-term treatment (i.e. wastewater lagoons)—10,000 dmt.
The U.S. EPA Region 9 data also included a breakdown on the number of biosolids composting sites by county (including dry metric tons received for composting before any amendments were added). Two facilities in Kern County processed 90,000 dmt; 75 percent of the biosolids came from outside the Central Valley, where Kern County is located, and 25 percent came from the Central Valley. About 60 percent of the finished compost was used in neighboring Kings County. San Bernardino County has three facilities that processed a total of 54,000 dmt, and Merced County has one facility that receives 13,000 dmt — two-thirds from the Central Valley and one-third from the San Francisco Bay area. Several other counties have smaller biosolids composting facilities.
Some national biosolids management estimates were included in a recent presentation at the Water Environment Federation’s annual Residuals and Biosolids Conference. Andrew Carpenter, owner of Northern Tilth in Belfast, Maine and president of the Northeast Biosolids and Residuals Association, reported that 30 percent of the biosolids produced in the U.S. are landfilled, and roughly half of the 15 percent of solids that are incinerated are not managed for energy recovery. “If these 2.4 million dry metric tons/year were treated with full resource recovery in mind — via anaerobic digestion and beneficial use on soils — we could annually avoid use of 510 million cubic meters of natural gas (.07% of U. S. annual consumption), 73,000 metric tons of commercial nitrogen fertilizer, and 36,000 metric tons of commercial phosphorus fertilizer.”
Water Infrastructure Financing Legislation Advances
In May, a U.S. House-Senate committee put forward legislation calling for creation of a pilot Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA) that would reduce the cost of renovating the nation’s antiquated water infrastructure. WIFIA would provide low-interest federal loans to municipalities to decrease the cost of financing major water and wastewater infrastructure projects. Savings of even two percentage points on the interest rate for a 30-year loan equates to 25 percent savings in the financing of a project. For major projects, the resulting savings can be in the hundreds of millions of dollars that would otherwise be passed on to customers in the form of increased bills over many years. The WIFIA pilot limits funding to 49 percent of a project’s total cost, and prohibits tax-exempt financing for the remaining portions — a stipulation that proponents of the legislation say should be adjusted so that the non-WIFIA-funded portion can be financed with tax-exempt debt.
In 2012, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) published the report, Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge, which states that, “Americans will have to invest more than $1 trillion over the next 25 years to repair and expand U.S. drinking water infrastructure.” The report found that wastewater costs are likely similar. The WIFIA legislation will now be sent to the full U.S. House and Senate, and if passed, will move on to the desk of President Obama.