December 18, 2013

Cupertino Wins EPA Food Recovery Challenge Innovation Award
TODAY, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the City of Cupertino its Food Recovery Challenge’sNational Innovation Award for the city’s extensive efforts to reduce food waste.  

Cupertino’s efforts include leading-edge work to integrate food waste reduction goals into its business partnership with a local waste hauler and to aid local businesses compost their food waste. The city was honored at an event held at Marina Food, a Cupertino Asian-foods specialty store that partnered with the city to reduce its food waste.

“Since the city established its 75 percent diversion goal, more than 2,000 tons of food waste generated by businesses and residents in Cupertino each year is no longer sent to landfills,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for U.S. EPA’s Pacific Southwest Office. “Reducing food waste is a simple way we can cut our carbon footprint, move closer to zero waste and stop harmful climate-changing gases from polluting our air.”

Nationally, food is the single most common material sent to landfills, accounting for 25 percent of all waste sent to landfills. When excess food, leftover food, and food scraps are disposed of in a landfill, they decompose and become a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. So, limiting wasted food significantly reduces methane emissions.

Statewide, the California State Board of Food and Agriculture met last spring to determine ways to minimize food to help address food insecurity and discuss food waste in the context of energy production and composting.

"There are opportunities at all stages of agricultural production and distribution to reduce food loss," State Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross said at the meeting. "We should continue to look at approaches and innovations that allow farmers and processors to minimize food loss, generate revenue and contribute back to our communities."

Craig McNamara, president of the state board, said at the time that the board will communicate with "key national partnerships that exist to address food waste and how these initiatives could be beneficial for California."

So, Cupertino set a goal to increase overall recycling and composting to 75 percent by 2015, a 10 percent increase from 2010 levels. Its waste hauler, Recology, must meet this goal in order to renew its contract with the city set for that year. Diverting food waste from landfills is the primary method the city is using to meet the 75 percent goal.  

Cupertino, Recology and EPA worked closely to encourage local businesses to reduce their food waste. As a result, Marina Food now prevents an estimated 520 tons of food waste annually from entering landfills. 

The city is also working with local businesses to ensure that food waste and associated packaging does not enter storm water systems, which can contaminate water flowing into rivers, streams, and the ocean.

The Food Recovery Challenge is part of EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Program, which seeks to reduce the environmental impact of food and other widely-used everyday items through their entire life cycle, including how they are extracted, manufactured, distributed, used, reused, recycled, and disposed.

Sources: EPA, CFBF, and CDFA