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Green garbage bags pile up next to an overfilled Food Waste bin in an alley behind the restaurants of 13th Avenue near campus. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

Over 40 million pounds of Eugene-area food waste lands in the local landfill annually. The City of Eugene is working to decrease that number with its Love Food Not Waste program, designed to educate business on the impacts that throwing food in landfills has on the environment.

Ben Zublin, Waste Prevention Program Coordinator for the City of Eugene, has worked as the logistics manager for Love Food Not Waste.

“I really appreciate what a program like Love Food Not Waste represents,” Zublin said. “The opportunity to divert organic materials from waste and put high energy organics to use is deeply gratifying.” 

The program was started in 2011 and changed to a food-only model in April 2019. It works with the company Rexius, which is the same company that the University of Oregon uses for composting and garbage disposal. Over 150 businesses and 57 schools utilize the program as their composting recourse. According to Zublin, Love Food Not Waste has saved nearly 16,000 tons of material from landfill. 

“Most recently, a lot of schools have been involved with the system, and that’s given the program a boost,” Zublin said. “There’s a beautiful symmetry to it, too. I like the idea that the schools are able to divert food waste and then also utilize the finished product.” 

The food waste issue doesn’t limit itself only to Eugene. Businesses across the nation accrue over 40% of the country’s food waste, according to Feeding America’s website. Supermarkets, full-service restaurants and institutional food services make up this jarring amount of excess food. 

A large number of diverse local businesses use Love Food Not Waste, from Dutch Bros Coffee to Voodoo Donuts, according to the program's 2019 roster. Taylor’s Bar and Grill, Caspian Mediterranean Cafe and the Alder Street location of Glenwood are three popular locations around the University of Oregon’s campus that do not utilize local composting services. 

Jacqui Willey, owner of both Glenwood restaurants in Eugene, said that the Alder Street location doesn't compost. 

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A discarded banana peel is left on the ground near food waste bins in an alley behind the restaurants of 13th Avenue. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

“We don’t compost,” Willey said. “We share trash services with the apartment behind us, and recycling and all of that, but they haven’t been interested in doing composting so we haven’t been able to do it. We don’t have a spot on our property for a bin.” 

On Nov. 19, Lane County Waste Management Division and their partners will be engaging with a free one-day workshop on the topic of how to prevent food waste. The invitation is extended to those who are food service professionals like chefs, restaurant owners and institutional cafeterias insight about the benefits of composting and various strategies to be economically efficient in the process. The event will be held at Wildcraft Cider Works, 232 Lincoln St. in Eugene and go from 9 a.m. to noon.

This story was updated on Nov. 19 to correct the date that Love Food Not Waste began. It was changed in April 2019, and started in November 2011.

Writer

Anna Mattson enjoys writing human focused pieces about climate change and social justice— two of the most present issues in today’s world. You can find her making lattes, reading short fiction or exploring everything from glaciers to deserts.