The lack of clear and comprehensive laws and labeling surrounding food waste and disposal is causing confusion about what food can be donated and how to do it.

Gage Edwards, Content Producer

May 2, 2023

4 Min Read
food waste panel wasteexpo 1540.jpg

The lack of clear and comprehensive laws and labeling surrounding food waste and disposal is causing confusion about what food can be donated and how to do it. 

The keynote session: Food Waste Policy Models, Opportunities, and Best Practices; Solutions of Household Food Waste Reduction’ Optimizing Food Waste Recovery panel was full of insight into how the industry is working to reduce and divert food waste.

The panel’s speakers included Emily M. Broad Leib, Professor of Law; Faculty Director, Food Law and Policy Clinic; Deputy Director, Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, Harvard Law School, Jonathan Deutsch, Ph.D., Drexel Food Lab, Drexel University, Dr. Brian E. Roe, Van Buren Professor; Yiheng Shu and Ran Li, Ohio State University, and John Hanselman, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Vanguard Renewables.

“One example we’ve seen is when the laws require date labels on products that don’t really make sense and aren’t clear about whether food can be donated after those dates. That can be a barrier to donating safe, edible food,” Leib said during the panel.

A new term being thrown around is the Food Waste Deterrence Policy, which is a new term that officials are using to be a framework term for a lot of policies that are really making it financially disincentivized to waste food. Such as organic waste disposal bins, food donation requirements, and ‘pay as you throw’ policies.

“We’re seeing a lot of experimentation with policies that are requiring people to not throw food away or where they have to pay a penalty if they do. So we’re kind of using food waste deterrence policies as an umbrella phrase for that,” said Leib.

Following Leib, Deutsch took the podium to discuss the work and observations that his students and himself have been doing at Drexel University in the food rescue field. The Drexel Foodlab is embarking on a three-year EPA grant under the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program.

“Our principles are ‘Do Good. Feed Well. Keep Going’ which [‘Do good’] means all of our projects have some sort of social benefit. ‘Feed well’ means we’re focused on deliciousness and whole foods, not functional ingredients or sneaking things into foods. ‘Keep going’ means, I see us as a compliment to the policy where we want market-driven solutions that stand on their own,” said Deutsch.

Currently, food producers come to the Drexel Foodlab with a food waste problem and students work to develop commercially viable products with what they call, upcycle food. The foodlab works with consumers in its classroom and develop ideas over the course of 10 weeks to find solutions for food waste problems.

“Waste is a social construct. So, what you do with food determines whether its food or waste. We want to reframe waste to think of it as, not recycling food waste but preventing food waste,” said Deutsch during his presentation.

Some examples given by the Foodlab’s work were taking an avocado and making tea that utilizes all the antioxidants they contain, turning strawberry tops into jams, and making the most out of thanksgiving leftovers.

Roe was next to speak to room, which quickly became standing room only as it continuously filled up throughout the session. Roe talked about the overall Recipes projects funded by the NFS and the methodology that is used in the household food waste tracking surveys, trends, and provide updates on new data that they’ve gathered so far in 2023.

Roe mentioned that this Recipes project is funded by the NFS, as, after a competition, the NFS handed out two $15 million grants to look at sustainable regional systems. The NFS then found that food waste was compelling enough of a topic that they funded the Recipes project.

“Our mission here is to think about food systems through the lens of waste and food and try to make them more sustainable, equitable and resilience. Trying to change from a linear view of the food supply chain to one that is more circular to try to transform those regional systems into something where we can extend the life of the food and, frankly, at the end, need to grow less food so that we can sustain our planet for a longer period of time,” said Roe.

Lasty at the Food Waste Policy Models panel was Hanselman. Hanselman started his presentation by mentioned that food waste is a misplaced resource, speaking with the anaerobic digesters that his company operates in mind.

“Food waste is unique in the recycling world, as its one of the things where, how you actually manage that resource, fundamentally determines whether it is one of the greatest greenhouse gas emitters in our culture, or this incredible resource that we can utilize in many, many different ways,” said Hanselman. “We’re trying to take that inedible component that is the primary driver and that can be extracted the most easily from the system and bring it into a farm. Get it [food components] to the point where we can recycle it, extract that renewable natural gas that is so vital for decarbonization, and then take all of those key components that are left, and return them to the soil as fertilizer, return them to the farmer as bedding, and really create that circularity that food waste can actually produce.”

About the Author(s)

Gage Edwards

Content Producer, Waste360

Gage Edwards is a Content Producer at Waste360 and seasoned video editor.

Gage has spent the better part of 10 years creating content in various industries but mostly revolving around video games.

Gage loves video games, theme parks, and loathes littering.

Stay in the Know - Subscribe to Our Newsletters
Join a network of more than 90,000 waste and recycling industry professionals. Get the latest news and insights straight to your inbox. Free.

You May Also Like