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UA's Compost Cats program awarded by EPA

Posted at 5:15 PM, Mar 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-31 20:15:55-04
Piles of food get dropped off at a San Xavier farm everyday, where University of Arizona students then turn it into compost.
 
What started as a small scale student project has turned into such a large operation, the Environmental Protection Agency came to check it out. 
 
"It's not just one of those little student things that you hear about, this is really making a difference," said Jared Blumenfeld, administrator for the EPA's Pacific Southwest Region.
 
In the last five years, the Compost Cats program has kept more than 10 million pounds of food waste from entering landfills. 
 
"When we go shopping and spend all that money, about a full third of it ends up in the landfill," said Blumenfeld. "When it's in the landfill, it off gasses methane into the atmosphere which is a greenhouse gas. It's leading to global climate change so when you think about everyday environmental things that you can do this is actually one of the most important."
 
Blumenfeld says they looked at 800 applicants across the country in the agency's Food Recovery Challenge, but the UA Compost Cats program stood out. 
 
"The shear amount of food that's coming through is pretty amazing," he said. "So mostly what happens is students get the food, they give it to the local garbage company and they do the rest. So the cool part about this program is that the students are doing it, collecting the food, working with the city, working with the tribe, sitting in the tractors and then selling the product."
 
The Compost Cats started partnering with the City of Tucson last year to pick up food scraps from commercial businesses. They've already got several large clients on board including Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. On Wednesday, Fry's announced it's joining as well. 
 
"When you see large clients adding on to the program, it's just momentum for more," said Taylor Sanders, a UA senior and the sales and operation manager for Compost Cats. "It's good to show other grocery stores and even other states and other municipalities that it works."