Iowa City recognized for participation in food waste study


Composting is one way to reduce food waste. (szczel/Flickr)
Composting keeps food waste out of landfills and re-purposes it for fertilizer and other uses. (szczel/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | December 2, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently recognized Iowa City for its participation in a food waste study.

The 6-week study examined 50 households and asked volunteers to weigh and record their daily food waste. Participants were encouraged to practice four steps to reduce waste: smart shopping, smart storage, smart preparation, and smart saving. The “Food Too Good to Waste” toolkit calculated that when using proper techniques for purchasing, preparing, and storing, the average family could save between $30 and $1,600 on grocery bills each year.

The study diverted roughly 1,000 pounds of food from ending up in the Iowa City Landfill where food accounts for 15 percent of total landfill waste. The study did not separate preventable food waste (such as rotten vegetables) from non-edible organic waste (like coffee grounds).

The Iowa City Landfill has a specific facility for commercial compost. Over the past seven years the facility has diverted more the 850 pounds of waste from the landfill. The compostable material goes through a rigorous process, beginning with a microbial and bacterial breakdown of the organic matter. The material is than heated to more than 132 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two weeks to kill harmful bacteria and weed seeds. Lastly, the material goes through a 30-day curing period. In all this process takes six to eight months and the final product is sold for fertilizer and other uses at $10 per pound.

According to data compiled by the Natural Resource Defense Council, the average person throws away about 20 pounds of food each month which amounts to $28 to $43.

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