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By Phil Yacuboski

Reports say food waste is a big problem in America. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 31 percent, or 133 billion pounds of food went to waste in 2010. The figure is instructive when one realizes that just in Pennsylvania, 2.6 million people qualify for food assistance, according to the American Community Survey.

“The problem is, just too much goes to waste,” said Iain Milnes of Power Knot, which through its liquid food composter products, helps reduce the amount of wasted food and its carbon footprint. While the cost is high ($17,000), the stainless steel machine decomposes food waste within 24 hours and allows for the discharge to go safely into the sewer system.

Milness said banquet and hotel facilities often prepare too much food.

“You or I would be unhappy if we were unable to get the kinds of foods we wanted at an event,” he said. “They often buy more than they need and the portions are often larger than they should be.”

When it comes to healthcare facilities, Milnes said they too over prepare; nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living facilities have regulated government guidelines they must meet in providing meals to patients and residents. In addition, government rules often prohibit places from reusing food or sending wasted food elsewhere, Milness said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection suggests using composting as a way to get rid of food waste, whether on your property or at a community facility.

Milness said Power Knot doesn’t try to help minimize food waste, rather helps deal with the wasted food.

“We say to them ‘you have this amount of wasted food, what are you doing with it,’ and if you buy our machine, it will save the environment a huge amount when it comes to carbon dioxide so you significantly reduce your carbon footprint,” he explained.

Global warming is an effect of food waste and Power Knot aims to curtail the dumping of foodstuff in landfills.

“We’re trying to improve the planet,” he said, adding that while it’s difficult to change culture and food regulations in the short term, the liquid food composter can help the Earth.

So if a high priced machine isn’t in your budget — what can businesses do to reduce food waste?

“If you’re hosting a banquet, ask people in advance if they want meat or fish,” he said. “Don’t have them show up and then order their main course. Too much goes to waste. This way, the banquet facility will only prepare the food that people actually want.”

Milnes said people can also reduce their portions. “But these are both cultural things and peoples’ expectations are that they are going to be satisfied when they leave,” he said. “Larger portions often means a better value. It’s a difficult thing to do.”

Milnes said many people are unaware that food waste goes to the landfill, it creates methane, which he said is a lot worse than carbon dioxide.

“If you’re sending 200 pounds of wasted food to the landfill every day, that’s a lot of methane gas that is produced,” he said. “That’s a big problem.”

Iain Milnes is founder and president of Power Knot.