Changing the laws to curb so much waste
The good news is that several states across the country are taking action to curb food waste and gain food recovery. Legislators in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont have passed laws that restrict the amount of food waste going to landfills7, with Vermont establishing a Universal Recycling Law that bans food scrap waste altogether by the end of this year.
There is pending legislation in California, Colorado and Massachusetts that would establish programs to fund private-sector composting and organic collection programs.8 In addition, several states like Tennessee and Washington, and cities like Los Angeles and Madison, Wisconsin, have created food waste task forces to reduce waste, creating composting education and infrastructure and eliminating food waste from US landfills.
Last year, the New York City Department of Sanitation expanded upon their organics separation rules, proposing that even more food-related businesses would be required to separate organic waste in an effort to keep nearly 100,000 tons of wasted food out of landfills each year.
The city and state efforts are trickling into US school systems too — both Maine and Rhode Island have introduced legislation to reduce the amount of food waste in schools. On a national level, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a goal in 2015 to reduce food waste by half by 2030.
Wasting food has environmental repercussions…
While the food waste movement across America is gaining momentum, it needs to pick up speed to help tackle one of the globe’s most pressing problems: climate change. Wasting food has irreversible environmental consequences: it wastes the water and energy it took to produce it, and generates greenhouse gases — 7 percent of the world’s emissions9 — like methane, carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons, which contribute to global warming. Food that sits decaying in landfills also produces nitrogen pollution, which causes algae blooms and dead zones. According to the World Wildlife Federation, the production of wasted food in the United States is equivalent to the greenhouse emissions of 37 million cars. If Americans continue on the same path of food loss, the environmental impact could be disastrous.
The average American family of four throws out $1,600 a year in produce.10
…and economic repercussions too
If reducing food insecurity and saving the planet aren’t enough to inspire action to reduce food waste, perhaps one more good reason will: money. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans waste more than $161 billion each year on food, with dairy products being the food item we toss out the most. The average American family of four throws out $1,600 a year in produce.10 Multiply that by the typical 18 years that a child lives at home and you could easily pay for a year’s worth of tuition at any number of America’s private colleges or universities.