New Federal Bills Target Food Waste
A new series of bills have been introduced in Congress that aim to quell food waste. These bills -- the Zero Food Waste Act and the Cultivating Organic Matter through the Promotion of Sustainable Techniques Act (COMPOST Act) -- will reduce food waste and in turn help create jobs, slow climate change, and improve soil health.
Why This Matters
Though at least one in eight people in the US experience food insecurity, 35% of all food goes unsold or uneaten -- and most of that goes to waste -- along with the $408 billion spent on growing, transporting, and disposing of it.
- Food waste also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions -- landfills are the third-largest source of US anthropogenic methane emissions, and food waste makes up 4% of total emissions in the US and 8% globally.
Additionally, a new report out today from WWF and Tesco called Driven to Waste, quantifies the total amount of food lost on farms globally, revealing an estimated 2.5 billion tons of food goes uneaten around the world each year. Wasting less food and eating what we grow can ensure that everyone has enough to eat while also addressing emissions from agriculture.
Waste Not Want Not
The Zero Food Waste Act would establish an EPA program that would give grants to state, tribal, and local governments to develop programs that prevent food waste. These programs could include projects that find the largest sources of food waste, mitigate food waste, rescue food scraps, and create incentives for composting. An annual award of $650 million will be granted for such projects through 2030.
Meanwhile, the COMPOST Act will help make sure food scraps are composted and returned to the soil. The bill would make compost projects eligible for federal funding by designating composting as an approved conservation practice, and would distribute $200 million annually for such projects over the next 10 years. According to US PIRG, Americans landfilled or incinerated over 50 million tons of compostable waste in 2015 -- enough to fill a line of fully-loaded 18-wheelers, stretching from New York City to Los Angeles ten times. Increasing capacity for compost is important to mitigating emissions by keeping organic matter out of landfills where it emits methane.
Both acts will prioritize proposals from communities of color, low-income communities, and Tribal communities, who are disproportionately affected by the food waste crisis.
These bills will push forward the US Food Loss and Waste Action Plan, a project by the NRDC, WWF, Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, and ReFED, which asked for leadership from the federal government to achieve the national goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030.
Organic waste is the number one item by volume entering our landfills and is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire US airline industry, all while millions of Americans experience hunger. Simply put, food is too valuable to throw away. The Zero Food Waste Act would support state, local, and tribal communities making the policy changes and infrastructure investments needed to develop a circular food economy, invest in community health and jobs, and curb greenhouse gas emissions. By leading here at home, the US can show the world how to invest in food systems where people and nature thrive.
Kiss The Ground: The Compost Story, May 8, 2017.