The EPA is announcing the selection of the D.C. Department of Public Works (DC DPW) to receive a grant of $152,000 to establish an innovative training and certification program for commercial food waste generators in Washington, D.C.  The program, known as “Food Waste Ready,” will prepare and certify commercial food waste generators, like restaurants, to set-up successful programs to separate organics and divert food waste to anaerobic digesters for processing.

“Anaerobic digestion is an important way to ensure essential nutrients are recirculated into our ecosystems,” said Carlton Waterhouse, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the EPA Office of Land and Emergency Management. “This kind of innovation helps communities reduce food waste that could end up in landfills while capturing methane for use, instead of having it go into the atmosphere.”

The DC DPW is one of 11 organizations expected to receive a total of approximately $2 million in funding to divert food waste from landfills by expanding anaerobic digester capacity nationwide. Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a process in which microorganisms break down organic materials, such as food scraps, manure, and sewage sludge, in the absence of oxygen.

“This project has deep connections with many DC DPW departments and is built on local knowledge developed over several years,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator  Adam Ortiz. “The plan for conducting outreach within the restaurant sector is excellent and the depth of planning for environmental justice (EJ) is very sound. It incorporates EJ components remarkably well and will have a significant positive impact on the affected communities.”

The timing of the project is ideal because local organics recycling rules will become effective in early 2023.The process produces biogas, which can be captured and used for energy production, and digestate, a nutrient-rich product used for fertilizer, rather than being released  to the atmosphere where it contributes to climate change.

“This innovative new program will be a further boost toward achieving Mayor Bowser’s Zero Waste goals, as it will train and certify businesses as ‘Food Waste Ready’ using innovative new tools and strategies,” said DPW Interim Director Mike Carter. “This will not only inspire restaurants, chefs, and other large generators of food waste to learn how to divert all food waste away from landfills, but will also directly support the growing anaerobic digestion infrastructure in the Washington metropolitan area.”

The Food Waste Ready program will be implemented in two phases: (1) training and certification via an automated, online learning management system and (2) program validation and customer service.

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