The Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) of the Department of Veterans Affairs is piloting two initiatives it says should keep nearly 600,000 pounds of kitchen waste out of landfills in 2012.
A 30-day cooking oil recycling pilot program was launched on January 18 with VCS partnering with Quest Recycling, of Frisco, TX, to recycle used cooking oil generated at VCS's Patriot Cafes located in Houston, Dallas, St. Louis, San Antonio, West Palm Beach, FL and Temple, TX. The pilot results will be analyzed in advance of an anticipated national rollout to 170 additional locations at a rate of 20 a month.
VCS estimates it will be able to recycle approximately 583,000 pounds of cooking oil per year and will also realize some safety benefits as new equipment will minimize food workers' contact with hot oil and kitchen equipment. Recycling used cooking oil supports VA's sustainability goal of achieving a 50 percent waste diversion rate by 2015 and a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
Meanwhile, VCS and the Martinsburg VA Medical Center's Nutrition and Food Service Group have partnered in a composting pilot at the facility's Patriot Cafe location. The pilot, which composts kitchen waste from the preparation of food products, began December 19 last year and ended on January 31.
Early reports revealed positive results, with VCS composting about 30 pounds of kitchen waste per week. The Martinsburg VA Medical Center developed the original composting system and received a VA Sustainability Achievement Award and a GreenGov Presidential Award in 2010 for the system's design and the sustainability results.
The Martinsburg composting design will be used to create standard composting policies and procedures for future VCS Patriot Cafes. VCS is actively pursuing composting pilots with VA medical centers in West Palm Beach, San Francisco, San Diego, and Palo Alto, CA.
"VA is committed to cutting our waste in half by 2015, and these initiatives will be a big step toward achieving that goal," says VCS Director Marilyn Iverson. "Recycling and conservation benefits VA, the veterans we serve and our environment."