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Washington state officials highlight food waste this week

Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio

This is National Food Waste Prevention Week.

Washington residents and businesses throw away a lot of food, about 400,000 tons each year. The state Department of Ecology has written a plan for cutting that in half by 2030.

To reach that goal, Jade Monroe says the state will need to divert more food from the waste stream, perhaps through composting or diverting more leftover food from restaurants to hungry people.

“We have 30 recommendations total across the food system to address food waste and we calculated through an economic analysis and using the best available data that we have that, if implemented, it would solve wasted food in Washington,” said Monroe, Ecology’s food waste reduction lead.

The recommendations were developed after the legislature in 2019 ordered the agency to create the plan to cut food waste.

Part of the strategy to achieve that includes making people more aware of the food they throw away. Governor Jay Inslee has proclaimed this Food Waste Prevention Week. The Department of Ecology is participating in a nationwide public information campaign adopted by hundreds of other state agencies, including Ecology’s Oregon counterpart, and private organizations.

Monroe says waste prevention starts with smarter food buying decisions.

“See what you want to eat for the week and how maybe you can use that other half of a green pepper in breakfast on Saturday or how you know you’ll have leftovers after Tuesday’s Taco Tuesday dinner. So how can you make sure those get eaten before they get spoiled?” she said.

Monroe estimates a family of four, on average, can save up to $1,500 a year on food that now goes into the trash.

Spokane is number onein the state when it comes to the amount of food thrown away per person, says Kris Major. the city of Spokane’s solid waste education coordinator. She says much of what’s thrown out are edible and non-edible fruits and vegetables.

Perhaps that wouldn’t be a problem if there were more productive places for that food, including composting facilities. She says the city’s solid waste system transports food scraps to a composting facilities about 30 miles away. The city makes green bins available for people to toss in their uneaten food. But they aren’t part of the city’s regular waste disposal service.

“You have to be a resident that would use it and maybe fill a 60 or 90-gallon cart every week and then be able to pay that monthly extra (about $19) and so that can be really prohibitive to people that may not be able to fill it or just don’t have the extra money,” Major said.

Major says her agency also encourages composting by providing bins and education to people who are interested. But many don’t want to make the effort needed to create and maintain compost piles and bins. She says the city is looking at how it can make the green bin service more attractive to residents and to find composting alternatives.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.