The University of Massachusetts Amherst won two awards recently, one from MassRecycle, a statewide coalition of individuals, government agencies, businesses and institutions, and the other from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for achievements in recycling food waste as well as paper, plastic and metal.
EPA’s New England Regional Office recognized the campus on Nov. 15, America Recycles Day, as one of nine national winners of the agency’s 2013 Food Recovery Challenge. In New England, more than 50 stores, school, hotels, restaurants, sporting venues and other businesses participate.
MassRecycle saluted the campus as its University Recycling Award winner for “dedicated composting and recycling efforts,” including campus-wide single-stream recycling, going trayless in dining commons and offering composting. Also, student EcoReps were acknowledged for their awareness campaign in residence halls including an annual “Trash Sort” that helps to boost student recycling participation.
Both MassRecycle and EPA note that the university plans to build one of the largest anaerobic digestion facilities in the state, to turn food scraps, manure and other organic-based waste into a biogas for green energy while decreasing campus emissions.
EPA Regional Administrator Curt Spalding said, “Through EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge, these New England institutions are rethinking opportunities to reduce food waste going to landfills, and they are making a real difference for the environment and for their communities. Sending food waste to a landfill represents a missed opportunity to reduce costs, protect the environment and help our neighbors.”
He noted that UMass Amherst increased waste diversion in 20 dining venues by using innovative solutions such as trayless dining and using compostable to-go containers and cutlery. Students have also proposed creating a student-run composting business with a bicycle pick-up service. UMass Amherst annually composts more than 1,400 tons of solid food waste.
The state Department of Environmental Protection plans to begin phasing in a requirement that large-scale food service operations such as grocery stores, universities and correctional facilities to compost food waste starting in January, with the goal of diverting 350,000 tons per year by 2020 and the UMass administration has pledged to take a major role in the effort.
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