On January 13, the “Food Waste Accountability Act of 2016” (H.R. 4382) was introduced by Representative Jerry McNerney (D-CA). The bill would require Federal contractors to report on food waste and has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The bill is the latest in a string of steps by the administration, Congress, states and industry to deal with the growing issue of food waste. Reducing food waste is a win-win-win scenario, it has the potential to alleviate hunger, reduce GHG emissions and lower both the environmental impact and cost of waste management.
Last September, the Obama Administration announced the goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030, the first-ever food waste reduction goal in the United States. The move is a piece of the President’s larger goals of climate change mitigation through his Climate Action Plan. In January, EPA also kicked off the Food Steward’s Initiative to help cut food waste at faith-based and community organizations. EPA has also outlined a food waste reduction hierarchy, with redirecting food to the hungry near the top, and composting, and energy production near the bottom.
Food waste presents multiple problems. In the United States alone, almost 40 percent of food is thrown away, contributing 13 percent to total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to EPA. As the largest component of municipal solid waste, it imposes financial and environmental pressure on waste management.
Most troublingly, it also wastes food in a world where many go hungry. Hunger and food insecurity cost nations 1 percent of their GDP, on average. At the same time, USDA estimates that a 15 percent redirection in food waste could feed 25 million Americans who don’t currently have enough to eat.
In addition to Rep. McNerney’s (D-CA) bill requiring certain federal agencies to report on food waste, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced the “Food Recovery Act of 2015” (H.R.4184) last December, which would change “best-buy” dates and promote infrastructure to keep food fresh.
At the state or municipal level, there are also several legislative efforts regarding this issue. New York State Senators have pre-filed the “State Food Waste Prevention and Diversion Act” (S. 6278). The bill aims to require cafeterias and food services in state-owned or controlled facilities to minimize their food waste by methods such as enhancing food waste sorting and separation, donating excess food to food banks, using food waste as animal feed, and sending it to energy generation facilities.
New Jersey State Senators are also considering a bill that would require food waste separation from other solid waste streams for composting or anaerobic digestion (S 771). New Jersey wouldn’t be the first state to require organics separation by larger institutions, but as the most densely populated state, it could have a significant impact. The bill will cover facilities including stores, distributors and hotels, which, in total, produce more than 52 tons of food waste each year. The bill also includes a fine for violating the law, which can be as high as $1000 a day.
While these initial steps may be small, taking a bite out of food waste is going to require efforts by citizens, states and municipalities, industries and lawmakers to address inefficiencies in the food system.
Author: Taotao Luo
For more information see:
2016 Food Waste Forecast, BioCycle