Veterans Affairs focuses on cutting food waste

Pilot programs for composting and recycling fryer oil help reach waste goals.

Feb. 15—The Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) of the Department of Veterans Affairs is taking steps to decrease its waste by nearly 600,000 pounds in 2012. Recycling, composting and recycling cooking oil are just a few of the initiatives that will help the department reach that goal.

"VA is committed to cutting our waste in half by 2015, and these initiatives will be a big step toward achieving that goal," VCS Director Marilyn Iverson said in a press release. "Recycling and conservation benefits VA, the Veterans we serve and our environment."

VCS has partnered with Martinsburg (W.Va.) VA Medical Center's Nutrition and Food Service Group for a composting pilot program at the VCS Martinsburg Patriot Café location. The program began Dec. 19 and composts pre-consumer kitchen waste. Early results showed that the program was composting about 30 pounds of kitchen waste per week. Martinsburg VA Medical Center designed the original composting system, which received a VA Sustainability Achievement Award and a GreenGov Presidential Award in 2010. This pilot program will serve as the basis for composting procedures for future VCS Patriot Cafes, such as Patriot Cafes in West Palm Beach, Fla., San Francisco, San Diego and Palo Alto, Calif.

Recycling cooking oil is part of another pilot program to encourage sustainability in VCS Cafes. VCS has been working with Quest Recycling to recycle used cooking oil generated at the VCS's Patriot Cafes located in West Palm Beach, Fla., St. Louis, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Temple, Texas. The department estimates it will be able to recycle approximately 583,000 pounds of cooking oil per year.

The pilot results will be analyzed to help spur a national roll out at 170 additional locations.