Got food scraps? You’re not alone.

Americans throw away about 40 percent the food we buy — about 33 million tons each year. That’s $165 billion worth thrown into landfills and incinerators every year. Wasted food is wasted money.

It’s time to stop feeding landfills and incinerators and start feeding hungry people and giving back compost to replenish our soils.

Waste is an especially critical issue in Hawaii, where trash disposal space is limited and the fragile environment is heavily impacted by marine debris, 80 percent of it from land-based sources. Getting to zero waste is something we can all support.

There is a solution: waste reduction, donation and composting. Compost improves soil health, increases drought resistance, and reduces and sometimes even eliminates the need for supplemental water, fertilizers and pesticides.

Like many other cities, San Francisco has found that food is a key zero waste opportunity. For example, San Francisco keeps 80 percent of its materials out of landfills through reuse, recycling and composting. San Francisco collects all food and soiled paper – even meats and pizza boxes – to produce compost used to fertilize agricultural fields.

Big food waste composting facilities are not available on Oahu yet, but you can get started with backyard composting right away. If we donate food that we don’t need and compost food scraps and green waste, we can move toward zero waste and flight global climate change.

EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge program is working to prevent food waste in Hawaii, and we are proud to be recognizing the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Kapiolani Community College, and Hawaii Pacific University as the newest participants in the agency’s Food Recovery Challenge program.
They join over 90 other colleges and universities nationwide in pledging to reduce wasted food.

Other key Hawaii Food Recovery Non-profit Partners include: Rewarding Internship for Sustainable Employment (RISE), which provides paid internships to implement of sustainability projects across the state; Aloha Harvest, which gathers quality, donated food and delivers it free of charge to social service agencies feeding the hungry of Hawaii; and The Green House, which runs programs to support sustainable living, gardening, and recycling. 

Many thanks to these great organizations — and to you — for donating, recycling, and composting. Know that your actions every day make a difference.

About the author: Jared Blumenfeld is the Regional Administrator for the U.S. EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. He is visiting Honolulu to meet with county and state officials and to announce the new participants in the agency’s Food Recovery Challenge program.

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