EPA Recognizes Virginia Department of Corrections for Diverting Food Waste from Landfills
PHILADELPHIA (Jan. 27, 2022) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it is recognizing the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) as an awardee in the Regional Partner category of its Food Recovery Challenge (FRC).
In 2019, VADOC had over 30,000 inmates in its 43 correctional facilities and employed 10,000 facility staff. Inmates and staff generated over 17,000 tons of trash that would have cost $1 million in landfill fees, as well as $200–$600 a month per site in dumpster rental fees.
Waste audits have confirmed that approximately half of the waste generated by a correctional facility is compostable. VADOC had been operating a large-scale compost program in central Virginia for the past eight years and had successfully diverted a small amount of food waste from landfills. The availability of over 30 agribusiness farms allowed VADOC to expand their compost operation and use the compost on soils and gardens throughout the state.
“We are excited to be composting at Green Rock,” said Melvin Davis, Warden at Green Rock Correctional Facility. “This allows us to divert food waste from the local landfill, which reduces harmful greenhouse gases. This process also allows us to enrich the soil at Green Rock, improving our agribusiness production over time.”
Because of grant funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and a week-long basic compost course offered to the staff, VADOC developed and implemented twelve compost programs in 2019, composting 892 tons of food waste – a 53 percent increase from 2018. During the first year, many sites were also able to reduce their tipping and dumpster rental fees by half. By closing the food loop, the Agency was able to save money and reduce the burden of waste on staff, operations, and the environment.
“EPA congratulates VADOC and all of the Food Recovery Challenge partners for their notable achievements and innovative approaches to reduce food waste in their operations,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz. “By addressing food waste, there is an opportunity to lower our carbon footprint and increase climate resilience, while also addressing inequities in food security and public health.”
Through the FRC, EPA has worked with organizations and businesses for the past decade to set data-driven goals, implement targeted strategies to reduce wasted food in their operations, and report results. During 2019 and 2020, FRC national awardees implemented innovative approaches and engaged in practical, cost-effective best practices to prevent and reduce wasted food. Best practices included waste audits and custom pallet building to maintain flexibility for those picking up recovered food. Many FRC national awardees provided much-needed food during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly 600 businesses, governments and organizations actively participated in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge in 2020-2021. Since the launch of the program in 2011, FRC partners prevented and diverted over 5.5 million tons of wasted food from entering landfills or incinerators. In the most recent reporting cycle, FRC partners prevented or diverted about 1.2 million tons of food from entering landfills or incinerators, saving partners up to $61.5 million in avoided landfill tipping fees.