New York State Pollution Prevention Institute to host June 4 event on managing food waste

Key stakeholders across state to gather at RIT to explore cost-effective strategies and solutions

Gabrielle Plucknette-DeVito

The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute is hosting a daylong event on the RIT campus next week that will explore how businesses are reducing food waste.

The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) is hosting a daylong program at Rochester Institute of Technology next week that will explore how businesses throughout the state and from coast-to-coast are reducing food waste, including by making use of organic resources to lessen their environmental footprint.

Managing Food Waste in New York State: Opportunities, Innovative Technologies and Best Practices will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, at the Golisano Institute for Sustainability (GIS). New York will soon become the sixth state in the nation to mandate that food waste from certain-sized businesses be diverted from landfills.

RIT—through researchers at GIS and NYSP2I—has led a wide variety of initiatives with the food-and-beverage production sector across the Finger Lakes region and the state since the turn of the decade. Direct business and technical expertise, workforce training and engineering assessments have reduced operational costs and environmental impacts at leading food companies such as Wegmans Food Markets, North American Breweries, Finger Lakes wineries and others.

The upcoming NYSP2I program is part of a broader state effort to prevent food waste, rescue wholesome surplus food for those in need, and encourage recycling of food scraps. It is  estimated that as much as 40 percent of edible food in the United States ends up in landfills.

At the same time, nearly 2.5 million state residents struggle to have enough to eat. Food also makes up 18 percent of the state’s solid waste stream. The vast majority of this food is disposed of in landfills, where it breaks down and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

“We are excited to continue important discussions and build awareness about food waste and food insecurity across New York state,” said Charles Ruffing, NYSP2I’s director. “By bringing together leading food businesses, policymakers, innovators, universities and nonprofit leaders, we can take a creative and ambitious approach to reduce food waste.”

“We look forward to further supporting these initiatives, as well as the efforts of communities and businesses across our state and elsewhere that are looking to divert waste from landfills,” he added.

The food waste event is expected to draw more than 150 attendees to campus. In addition to speakers from RIT, NYSP2I, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, it will feature presenters from Rochester-based companies like Wegmans as well as representatives from Baldor Specialty Foods in the Bronx, N.Y.; Binghamton University; Massachusetts-based Center for EcoTechnology; Clarkson University; Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; New York City-based James Beard Foundation; Leanpath in Beaverton, Ore.; and Price Chopper in Schenectady, N.Y.

“The days of wasting resources are over. At Baldor Specialty Foods, a leading produce and specialty food distributor in the U.S., we made a strategic decision to become a zero organics to landfill company by 2020,” said Thomas McQuillan, vice president of Strategy, Culture and Sustainability. “This decision required creative and innovative thinking and appropriate processes and technology; I look forward to sharing insights into Baldor’s success to motivate others to fully utilize all food, always.”

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