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Every weekday morning CAI brings you coverage of local issues, news, and stories that matter. Join us for Morning Edition from 6 a.m. to 9a.m., with Kathryn Eident.

Wasted Food, Too Much Trash

Nearly a quarter of of our trash comes from wasted food. But what if we could change that?

State environmental officials had this question in mind when they passed a commercial food waste ban for businesses that produce a ton or more food waste each week. That means places like hospitals, grocery stores, and college dining halls can no longer throw food into the waste stream -- something else has to be done with it.

That law was passed last October, and today (Friday), county officials are holding a workshop for businesses to help them understand how to comply.

It turns out that excess food can be used in a variety of ways. Lorenzo Macaluso works for the government contractor that helps local businesses learn how to comply in the program "Recycling Works".

"There are different types of opportunities," Macaluso said, "whether it is food that's fit for human consumption that can go to donation, or maybe there are some processes in their operation that can be modified to prevent that food from being generated in the first place through better purchasing, better storage or tighter production. Or, finding composting or anaerobic digestion opportunities."

There can be a cost associated with making changes like these, but Macaluso said sometimes businesses can find a small cost savings. He also says he sees a change in employees.

"Food is so personal," he said. "Everybody eats. When food service workers are seeing this food that is still good food but for whatever reason not able to be sold, they do feel bad about throwing it away. When you can have a food donation program in place, everyone starts to feel really good about that."

Lorenzo says these types of strategies aren't just for big food producers. Smaller businesses and even families can try to reduce the amount of food that gets thrown away.

"There's a whole set of resource there through the Recycling Works program to make that happen, and they're all available at no cost," he said.

While the Massachusetts food waste ban is more stringent than others, Commonwealth businesses are not alone. Vermont and Connecticut have similar bans.

The workshop for Cape businesses is today (Oct. 30) at 9:30 a.m., at the Barnstable County Courthouse Complex.