Green Groups Urge Congress to Cut Food Waste

Our Daily Planet

Food waste is a serious concern in the US -- every year, between 30 and 40% of all food in the country is unsold or uneaten. The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, ReFED, Natural Resources Defense Council, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), among other NGOs and corporations, are encouraging the federal government to cut US food waste in half by 2030 through five key actions:

  • Fund infrastructure that measures, recycles, and thwarts food waste from being dumped in landfills or incinerated.
  • Find ways to formalize surplus food donations and fortify local supply chains.
  • Make the US government a global model of food waste management.
  • Promote private and public food waste avoidance campaigns that can educate consumers.
  • Enforce a national date labeling standard, so consumers can determine more accurately when food has spoiled.

RTS: Food Waste in America in 2021 - Statistics & Facts

Why This Matters

The statistics paint a sobering picture of how dire the food waste crisis has become. The carbon footprint of food waste is greater than that of the airline industry. Each year $408 billion worth of food -- roughly 2% of the US GDP -- is wasted, and less than 10% of this excess food is donated. According to statistics from Northwestern University, 23% of households have experienced food insecurity last year. Black and Latino families are twice as likely as white families to face food insecurity; those without high school degrees experienced food insecurity at 27%; and adults with disabilities experience twice the rate of food insecurity as adults without them -- making this an environmental justice issue as well.

Should the federal government take into consideration this report's recommendations, it would be an opportunity to take meaningful action on hunger and food waste alike.

Waste Not, Want Not

Food waste is also a climate issue -- yearly food waste comprises 4% of US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (globally 6% GHG emissions). Moreover, food waste that goes directly into landfills contributes to the increase in GHGs in the atmosphere.

Municipal Solid Waste

Landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in America. In 2018 they released about the same amount of methane as the GHGs emitted by more than 20.6 million passenger vehicles driven for one year.

Pete Pearson, Senior Director of Food Loss and Waste at WWF, told Our Daily Planet:

Immediately removing food and organic waste from our landfills will have a direct impact by reducing GHG emissions. More importantly, the food system carries an incredibly high carbon footprint when we consider farming, transportation, refrigeration and disposal. When we work to measure and prevent food waste, along with creating a more circular system where unavoidable food waste is turned into energy or compost, we create a system that can be in better balance with nature. Nothing is wasted in nature.

Kiss The Ground: The Compost Story, May 8, 2017.