Two government agencies have established the United States first-ever food waste reduction goal, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) combined to establish the goal and will 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, according to a news release.
The announcement comes a week before world leaders gather at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to address sustainable development practices, including sustainable production and consumption.
"The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "An average family of four leaves more than two million calories, worth nearly $1,500, uneaten each year. Our new reduction goal demonstrates America's leadership on a global level in in getting wholesome food to people who need it, protecting our natural resources, cutting environmental pollution and promoting innovative approaches for reducing food loss and waste."
Food waste and loss in the United States accounts for about 31 percent–or 133 billion pounds–of the overall food supply available to retailers and consumers and has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change, the departments said. Food loss and waste is single largest component of disposed U.S. municipal solid waste, and accounts for a significant portion of the methane emissions.
"Let's feed people, not landfills,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “By reducing wasted food in landfills, we cut harmful methane emissions that fuel climate change, conserve our natural resources, and protect our planet for future generations.”
In 2013 the USDA and the EPA launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, which created a platform for all food chain leaders and organizations to share best practices on ways to reduce, recover and recycle food loss and waste. By the end of 2014, the program had more than 4,000 active participants, well surpassing its initial goal of reaching 1,000 participants by 2020.
In addition to the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, the USDA has launched several food loss reduction initiatives during the past few years, including an app to help consumers safely store food and understand food date labels, new guidance to manufacturers on donating misbranded or sub-spec foods, and research on technologies to make reducing food loss and waste cost effective. The USDA plans on additional initiatives targeting food loss and waste reduction throughout its programs and policies.
The department also is launching a new consumer education campaign through its Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion with information on food loss and waste facts and reduction tips. In addition, a new section on ChooseMyPlate.gov will educate consumers about reducing food waste to help stretch household budgets.
The USDA and the EPA will also continue to encourage the private sector–food service companies, institutions, restaurants, grocery stores and others–to set their own aggressive goals for reducing food loss and waste. One example of such effort is the Consumer Goods Forum, which recently approved a new resolution to cut food waste in half in the operations of its 400 retailer and manufacturers members by 2025.
Food waste recycling programs continue to grow with more aggressive government drives for landfill diversion. San Jose, Calif., is beginning a pilot food waste collection program, in conjunction with recycling and waste hauler Garden City Sanitation (GCS).
In August Sevier Solid Waste Inc. (SSWI) said it is building a waste-to-energy (WTE) plant in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., at a cost of $2.25 million. The facility will convert composted material into thermal energy while also producing a high-carbon biochar. The new biomass gasification plant will be capable of converting more than 30 tons of organics daily.
Also that month, California’s assembly passed a bill requiring local governments to plan for the building of sufficient composting infrastructure to process organic waste. The California Senate passed AB 876, authored by Assembly member Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), which would force local governments, beginning Aug. 1, 2017, to assess the amount of organic waste that will be generated in a region during a 15-year period.
In addition that month, the city of Orlando said it is expanding its commercial food waste collection program, previously a pilot, to make it available to all area businesses.