Go Green: Downtown West Chester Restaurants Divert Food Waste In Pilot Study
January 11, 2016 | By Ronna Dewey, Dish Works
Did you know that in 2013, Americans generated about 254 million tons of trash?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans only “recycled and composted about 87 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34.3% recycling rate.” This recycling and composting helped prevent the release of approximately 186 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the air—that’s like taking 39 million cars off the road for a year. What happens to all of the other municipal solid waste? It goes into landfills and stays there while it decomposes very slowly.
Food rotting in landfills is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. How can we get more food waste out of our local landfills? This is a question that Denise Polk, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at West Chester University, asked herself after deciding to pursue solutions for Downtown West Chester . She was awarded a grant from the EPA to pioneer a pilot program to encourage local restaurants to compost food waste. Composting is nature's process of recycling decomposed organic materials into a rich soil.
Dr. Polk enlisted the help of the West Chester Business Improvement District and the West Chester Public Works Department to implement the pilot program, which included three downtown West Chester restaurants — Three Little Pigs , Landmark Americana and Roots Cafe .
The original pilot program took place in 2014 for six months and diverted 44.31 tons of waste from landfills to a local compost facility. The waste included items such as food scraps from fruits, vegetables and meats and paper products, cardboard and napkins. According to Meghan Fogarty, Solid Waste and Recycling Coordinator for the Borough of West Chester, “The original grant program was free to the three participating restaurants and the organic material was hauled by Borough employees as part of the grant.”
Due to the success of the program, Dr. Polk applied for and received another EPA grant in 2015, which will expand the program to 10 restaurants for a 12month period. Dr. Polk shares,
Dr. Polk feels that the most important source of reducing food waste will involve educating the local restaurants to be more efficient by avoiding overpurchasing food items, becoming more efficient with food prep behaviors and revising food portions and menu options.
The expanded pilot program will include other food recovery efforts. Specifically, West Chester University students will help develop outreach materials to help restaurants reduce their waste and offer extra food to neighborhood organizations that feed hungry families, including Safe Harbor of Chester County, St. Agnes Dayroom and the West Chester Food Cupboard .
How can you get involved? If you are a restaurant in the downtown West Chester area, contact Meghan Fogerty at 610-696-5282 or via email to check for availability. Please note: restaurants in the new program will have to pay a nominal fee to participate. For more information on creating your own compost with food waste from your home, visit the Chester County Solid Waste Authority.
Did you know that Downtown West Chester has other green initiatives?
West Chester proudly houses 71 solarpowered BigBelly refuse collectors , which are scattered throughout town. These incredible containers offer recycling capabilities, eliminate waste overflow and increase waste capacity by compacting trash. BigBellys are also smart; they wirelessly let West Chester Public Works know when the cans are ready to be emptied for trash pickup—only when necessary. Cool, right?
If you are a resident, get to know more about the recycling program in the Borough of West Chester. The singlestream, curbside collection program follows the same schedule as trash collection.
Additionally, check out the new Chestnut Street Facility , located in the heart of downtown at 14 E. Chestnut Street and surrounded by hundreds of businesses. The facility contains 16 bicycle lockers for folks looking to cut their carbon footprint and bike to work.
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