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K-State Today

May 8, 2013

EPA honors university's dining hall food composting program for successfully reducing waste, promoting sustainability

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

The Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 will present an achievement award to Kansas State University for demonstrating commitment to improving sustainable food management practices.

Becky Weber, Air and Waste Management Division director for EPA Region 7, will honor the university in an on-campus ceremony at 2 p.m. Thursday, May 9, in the lobby of Kramer Dining Center. Members of the community are invited to attend.

Kansas State University's food composting program takes leftover food waste from dining halls to Agronomy North Farm on campus for composting. The compost is used by university researchers for erosion, field and greenhouse experiments.

"I think the food composting program shows the kind of synergy we are looking for with K-State 2025," said Ben Champion, the university's director of sustainability. "Investing smartly in a smaller pilot project can create synergies that help that project spiral in its impact. Before you know it, a project like the composting project is touching on all the different roles that a land-grant university needs to play."

In 2012, Kansas State University reduced food waste by 39.8 tons, an increase of 41.6 percent from its 2011 total, as a part of EPA's Food Recovery Challenge. In 2010, the university's first year in the program, the university reduced food waste by 22 tons.

The Food Recovery Challenge is a part of EPA's WasteWise program. WasteWise helps organizations and businesses apply sustainable materials management practices to reduce municipal and select industrial wastes. WasteWise participants can join as partners, endorsers or both. EPA's Region 7 includes the Midwest states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, as well as nine tribal nations.

"We are honored to receive this award for improving composting activities at Kansas State University," said John Woods, director of facilities services at Kansas State University. "Our dining services and recycling personnel have a great partnership and have worked hard in preventing food waste and recovering food waste on campus for composting. Participating in the collection and transporting of food waste has made us all more aware of the importance of composting material that would otherwise have been discarded. We are extremely proud to be a part of the K-State sustainability program."

At Kansas State University, the food composting program is a collaborative effort among housing and dining services, the department of agronomy, K-State Recycling and the K-State Student Union food service by Sodexo.

The composting program began several years ago with Kramer Dining Center and has grown to involve dining halls across campus. The program keeps food waste out of landfills and combines the university's excellence in agriculture with a commitment to sustainability.

"The most important aspect of the composting project is the collaboration across campus and the team effort to make it possible," said Jennifer Kennedy, service manager for Kramer Dining Center. "I am thankful for everyone's efforts in this project. My hope is that dining services can continue to be a part of important sustainability efforts within the university community. I feel that we have a responsibility to educate and develop systems and practices that can be continued in the future."