FFAR Grant Addresses Food Waste Reduction Challenges
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Nearly one-third of landfill waste consists of food waste matter that could be redirected to alternative waste reduction methods, such as composting. However, addressing food waste reduction presents communities, especially cities, with significant challenges related to policy, technology and cost-effectiveness. The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research is awarding a $308,171 Seeding Solutions grant to the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UT) to develop and execute a food waste Decision Support System (DSS), enabling city planners to easily evaluate innovative waste reduction solutions and technologies. Matching funds were provided by Metro Nashville, Resource Capture, UT and Urban Green Lab for a total $616,378 investment.
“Landfill waste creates many problems around land use, health and environmental concerns, especially in urban areas,” said John Reich, FFAR scientific program director. “This research is making it easier for communities to cut down landfill waste and reuse a significant portion of waste for beneficial purposes such as composting.”
Communities are increasingly interested in removing food waste from the waste stream. Landfills are quickly running out of space and at current rates will be full in less than ten years. Thirty percent of landfill waste is organic matter that could be redirected and composted. Organic matter left to decompose in landfills generates methane gas, increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Initiating composting policies presents challenges related to system scale, methods of collection, various composting technologies, cost-effectiveness and other financial considerations.
UT researchers are developing the DSS, which will enable partners, city planners and community leaders to determine best options for identifying and scaling food waste redirection, composting and use of compost using a model that can be easily applied to other cities. To accomplish this, UT researchers are working with partners to initiate a pilot composting facility, collect data and conduct field trial composting to inform DSS and educate the community on composting process and technologies.
“These past couple of years of shortages and high prices have shown the importance of turning local waste into quality compost to grow food with less external inputs,” said Chad Hellwinckel Principal Investigator and Research Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Tennessee. “But it can be confusing for cities to know where to begin. Our model will help by laying out the costs and benefits of the range of available composting technologies and scales before them.
The DSS will enable communities to make well-informed decisions that reduce food waste in landfills as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Multi-scale, multi-technology solutions, like DSS, are better able to meet and evolve with urban food systems’ unique challenges.
Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennessee.edu.