New Food Waste Recovery Bill Would Push Composting, Waste-to-Energy

Allan Gerlat, News Editor

December 10, 2015

3 Min Read
New Food Waste Recovery Bill Would Push Composting, Waste-to-Energy

A food waste recovery bill has been introduced into Congress that aims to reduce food waste at both the consumer and commercial levels, and would encourage various composting and waste-to-energy (WTE) initiatives.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) is sponsoring the bill, which would address food waste in four areas–at the consumer level, in grocery stores and restaurants, in schools and other institutions, and on farms, according to the news release from her office. The Food Recovery Act includes nearly two dozen provisions to reduce food waste.

"Forty percent of all food produced in the United States each year is wasted," Pingree said.  "The Food Recovery Act takes a comprehensive approach to reducing the amount of food that ends up in landfills and at the same time reducing the number of Americans who have a hard time putting food on the table."

The bill would encourage composting as a conservation practice eligible for support under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It would support food WTE projects at the farm, municipal and county levels, while ensuring that edible food that could feed hungry people would not be diverted to energy production.

And the bill would create an infrastructure fund to support construction of large-scale composting and food WTE facilities in states that restrict food waste going to a landfill.

For consumers, the bill requires any manufacturer who wants to put a date on their food to use the words "Best if used by" and also, in letters just as big, the words "Manufacturer's suggestion only." 

Currently there are no federal laws regarding expiration dates. "Manufacturers can go overboard with the dates they put on food–and it can lead to consumers and retailers throwing out perfectly good food," Pingree said.

To reduce food waste on the farm, in grocery stories and in restaurants, the bill would extend and expand tax deductions for those that donate high-quality food to appropriate organizations for those that are food insecure. It also would invest in storage and distribution program to help food banks.

In schools, the bill would encourage cafeterias to buy lower-price “ugly” fruits and vegetables, and expand education grants.

The bill calls for the creation of an Office of Food Recovery to coordinate federal activities related to measuring and reducing food waste and implementing recovery initiatives.

Dana Gunders, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) project scientist, food and agriculture, in San Francisco, said in her blog, “I congratulate Rep. Pingree on showing leadership by putting the Food Recovery Act forward. If enacted, it will certainly make a real dent in our food waste footprint.”

In September the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Agriculture established the United States’ first-ever food waste reduction goal, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030.

The two agencies combined to establish the goal and aim to lead a partnership with the private sector, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste to improve overall food security and conserve natural resources.

Several technological developments, such as mobile apps and websites, also have emerged to help address food waste.

About the Author(s)

Allan Gerlat

News Editor, Waste360

Allan Gerlat joined the Waste360 staff in September 2011 as news editor. He was the editor of Waste & Recycling News for the first 16 years of its history, and under his guidance the publication won 27 national and regional awards.

Before Waste & Recycling News, Allan worked at another Crain Communications publication, Rubber & Plastics News, which covers rubber product manufacturing. He began with the publication as associate editor and eventually became managing editor, a position he held for nine years.

Allan is a graduate of Ohio University, where he earned a BS in journalism. He is based in Sagamore Hills, in northeast Ohio.

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