BioCycle January 2018
Green Infrastructure In Urban Parks
The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) recently released its Resource Guide for Planning, Designing and Implementing Green Infrastructure in Parks. The new guide, which draws on lessons learned from NRPA’s Great Urban Parks Campaign pilot projects, was created in partnership with the American Planning Association and Low Impact Development Center. The guide provides basic principles, inspiration and ideas to help planners, designers and decision makers integrate green storm water infrastructure into parks and park systems across the country. Additional resources, including technical guides and webinars, and a completion checklist, are also available, along with briefing papers and case studies that detail issues related to financing, park system planning, community engagement and equity.
“Parks are a smart and effective solution to many of the challenges associated with a changing climate,” notes Lori Robertson, NRPA director of conservation. “Our hope is more communities will discover these benefits through use of this guide, and the implementation of green storm water infrastructure projects in parks across the country.” Examples of green infrastructure include rain gardens, bioswales, constructed wetlands, and permeable pavement. Compost is often a component in the engineered soil utilized in rain gardens, bioswales and constructed wetlands. “Publicly owned parks are ideal venues for the installation of these solutions, as they offer a variety of benefits beyond storm water mitigation, especially in underserved communities where flooding and water quality are a concern,” adds Robertson.
In its review of the new guide, Next City — a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities through journalism and events around the world — points out the integrated benefits that multiple agencies receive utilizing green infrastructure tools in parks: “Parks can ‘leverage the co-benefits’ provided by green storm water projects as they update their systems to comply with municipal permits and federal regulations. The guide suggests partnerships between park agencies and water utilities, EPA resources and teaming up with departments of housing and economic development to spur revitalization in underserved areas.” Download the new NRPA guide
Massachusetts Commercial Organics Progress Report
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) reports a total diversion of 260,000 tons of commercial food waste in 2016. Most of the diversion was to composting (166,000 tons), followed by anaerobic digestion (57,000 tons). Food recovered for donation, primarily through food banks, was 22,000 tons in 2016. Rescue of fresh and perishable foods grew by more than one-third between 2014 (when Massachusetts’ food waste disposal ban became effective) and 2016, adds MassDEP. The Department estimates that about 50,000 tons/year of food waste is managed through on-site systems.
The number of customers receiving food materials collection, as reported by haulers, is 2,100 in 2017, an increase of 56 percent (750 customers) since 2014. MassDEP notes there are currently 45 facilities available to handle organics, including 315,000 tons of digestion capacity, 150,000 tons of composting capacity, and six depackaging plants. There is an additional 570,000 tons of anaerobic digestion capacity in the development pipeline.
Teamwork Taps Educational Institutions To Rescue Food
Schools and colleges in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and the Metro-West area of Boston, expected to donate an estimated 20,000 meals in 2017 to Food For Free, a nonprofit organization in Cambridge (MA) that takes wholesome, edible surplus and leftover food and passes it on to people in need. Wellesley’s 3R Working Group, which consists of representatives from the Department of Public Works, the Sustainable Energy Committee, and the Natural Resources Commission, has been working with EPA-New England and Food For Free to develop a collaborative food rescue initiative. The food service vendors dedicated to its implementation include Whitsons Culinary Group, Rebecca’s Café, Sodexo, Chartwells, and AVI Foodsystems. The initiative delivers on the goals of the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge Program focusing on local K-12 schools, colleges and universities.
Food rescue program participants include Wellesley Public Schools, Babson College, Bentley University, Olin College of Engineering and Wellesley College. Between September 2017 and early December, over 4,000 pounds of food were donated from Bentley, Olin and Wellesley Middle School, and other schools joined the program recently. “With this critical mass of participating schools and colleges in place, other local organizations with serviceable leftover food will be encouraged to join,” says Ellen Korpi, Vice Chair of the Town’s Sustainable Energy Committee.
Food For Free is repackaging this rescued food into single-serve meals. Recipients may include people living in shelters, temporary housing such as motels, and housing without full kitchens, and those receiving Meals on Wheels. “Translating this dream into a reality has been a complicated challenge as there were few precedents of such a comprehensive and collaborative initiative,” adds Korpi. “It took the support and guidance of the Wellesley’s school administration, food services vendors, and the health department to bring this project to fruition.”
Key to collaborating with Food For Free was getting enough volume. “To make it worth sending a truck to this area, we needed a minimum volume per pick up,” explains Sasha Purpura, Executive Director of Food For Free. “Because these institutions collaborated and came to us as a group, we viewed this as a single collection, making them a viable food donation partner.”
Standard operating procedures were developed by Alison Cross, a 3R Working Group member. “Food services organization also have been key to this process,” says Cross. “They are moving the surplus food through the process of collection, storage and preparation for pick-up, while protecting the integrity and safety of the food.” As the 3R Working Group recruited local colleges for this program, conversations with MassBay Community College, located in Wellesley, revealed that 52 percent of the students surveyed there indicated they were food insecure. Food For Free is now working with MassBay to develop a program for these students to receive meals. Overall in Massachusetts today, it is estimated that one in ten people are food insecure.
Residential Access Report Correction
The full report of the 2017 BioCycle Residential Food Waste Collection Access In The U.S. Study mistakenly described Organix Solutions’ Blue Bag collection program used for curbside access in communities in Minnesota. The survey stated: “Communities utilizing Organix Solutions in Minnesota have just one collection container per household, where trash, recyclable and organic waste are all placed. The color-coded bags are later separated by Organix Solutions.” Debra Darby, Organix Solutions’ Program and Marketing Director, sent a Letter to the Editor to correct this description:
“Our patented cocollection process known as the Blue Bag program allows haulers to collect organics and general trash in a single truck. It is the [blue] compostable bag for organic waste that is color-specific. … Our proprietary BPI certified compostable bags are designed to withstand the compaction in a standard rear or side load truck, and then are sorted by a hauler or processor at a transfer station or an end point. We do not mix collection with other recyclables as stated in the survey.”
2017 Food Sustainability Rankings
Food represents a common thread linking the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by United Nations member states in 2015. The Food Sustainability Index (FSI), which ranks 34 countries on food system sustainability, was developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition. The FSI benchmarking model is constructed from 58 indicators that measure the sustainability of food systems across three themes: Food Loss and Waste, Sustainable Agriculture, and Nutritional Challenges. The index contains three types of key performance indicators: environmental, societal, and economic. The assessment is done in a qualitative and quantitative manner, highlighting best practices among different countries, and establishing a comparable benchmark and measure of progress over time.
The top scored countries overall are France, Japan, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, South Korea and Hungary (top quartile). In general, countries in the top quartile typically demonstrate strong and effectively implemented government policy on food waste and loss, agriculture-related conservation and research, and nutrition education. Countries with a high level of food sustainability tend to demonstrate high incomes, high levels of human development, smaller populations and slower rates of urbanization. The U.S. came in 19th out of 34 countries assessed in the FSI evaluation.
France scores the highest in the food loss and waste pillar among the 34 countries surveyed for the FSI. The highest score reflects the country’s proactive response taken by successive governments to limit distribution level loss and end user waste. France loses only 1.8 percent of its total food production to wastage annually. New legislation passed in early 2016 prohibits supermarkets from throwing away food approaching its sell-by-date, and instead requires them to donate it to charities or food banks.