The Southern Nevada Health District played host as the EPA and Nevada Division of Environmental Protection delivered a highly educational and beneficial workshop focusing on tackling food waste throughout Southern Nevada. The event was well attended with representatives from various backgrounds including chefs, recycling, agriculture, the School District and non-profits, all looking to minimize waste in their sector.
Food waste is a major issue throughout the United States with over $218 billion of food wasted annually. The vast majority of this is made up from fruits, vegetables, milk and dairy. This food is wasted for numerous reasons. The majority is wasted in homes due to over buying, poor storage and a lack of knowledge and clarity of food labels.
Due to the thriving service industry in Southern Nevada and the huge quantities of food produced daily there is inevitably waste. Especially from buffets, the demand for large portion sizes and strict health and safety laws. This is obviously bad for business and the environment.
To help tackle this issue the EPA presented their Reducing Food Waste and Packaging Toolkit. The toolkit enables home owners and businesses to understand what is being wasted, how much is wasted and why.
It offers a tracking tool in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. A food audit is conducted, counting food types and quantity which is then inputted into the spreadsheet. This auto calculates percentages and creates a number of informative graphics from which behaviour can be adjusted to make savings.
Once data has been gathered there are a number of ways to make sure any waste does not go to landfill. The most beneficial and first choice is simply to reduce the quantity of waste. However there are other options for businesses in Southern Nevada. Businesses can donate to Three Square Food Bank, compost with Terra Firma Organics and there is even a hog farm in development to be opened in 2017.
There have also been a number of innovative events that have raised awareness of the issue. This winter over 20,000 Christmas trees were diverted from landfill. Instead they were chipped and used in the local parks. And at Halloween families went to the first even Pumpkin Chuckin. Where people competed to catapult their used pumpkins as far as possible. Everything was then collected and composted by Terra Firma Organics.
These events highlight the increasing concern for food waste in Nevada and the innovation in the community to help tackle it. The EPA toolkit can prove a crucial resource for businesses, homeowners and organizations who wish to reduce their waste to maximize their profits, improve the environment and help those in need.
EPA Tips Sheets for Food Loss Prevention à restaurants, grocery stores, K-12 schools, universities, manufacturers
Guide to conducting and analyzing a food waste assessment, Toolkit for Reducing Wasted Food & Packaging, Food Waste Management Calculator
EPA volume to weight conversion factors (for estimating bin weights)