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Food Waste Vibrant Environment Blog Posts

New Model Policy Bolsters Compost Use and Infrastructure

Compost
By Akielly Hu, Associate Editor, Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney; Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs, Jessica Sugarman, Research Associate, and Darby Hoover, Senior Resource Specialist, Natural Resources Defense Council
Wednesday, September 1, 2021

A new model compost procurement policy developed by the Environmental Law Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council could help municipalities around the country in their efforts to divert food scraps and other organic materials from their landfills and incinerators and, in so doing, realize myriad economic and environmental benefits.

The model policy, which is designed to be an off-the-shelf, easily adaptable tool, requires municipalities to purchase finished compost products when appropriate for use in public projects such as landscaping, construction, and stormwater management—provided it is not cost-prohibitive to acquire. The model policy also encourages quasi-governmental and local private entities to purchase compost, when possible, for use in their projects.

Seven Areas for Taking Action to Reduce Food Waste

Apples in harvest
By Dana Gunders, Executive Director, ReFED
Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Food waste is a systemwide problem, affecting all stages of the supply chain. Therefore, solving it will take a systemwide approach. A new report by ReFED, Roadmap to 2030: Reducing U.S. Food Waste by 50%, was designed to provide food businesses, governments, funders, and more with a framework to align their food waste reduction efforts.

Co-Digestion of Food Waste: A Triple Greenhouse Gas Solution

Aerial view of co-digesters
By Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Thursday, April 1, 2021

An estimated 35% of food that is produced is uneaten, with losses occurring along the supply chain from farms to consumers. The majority from non-industrial sources ends up decomposing in landfills, where it releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas (GHG). Recycling food waste through anaerobic digestion (AD), in which bacteria break down organic material in the absence of oxygen and create biogas, can create a triple-win for GHG mitigation. It reduces landfill methane emissions, creates renewable energy from the biogas, and sequesters carbon in soils through land application of biosolids-based soil nutrients and amendments. The wastewater sector, with substantial excess capacity in the anaerobic digesters it uses to process biosolids, can contribute substantially to this climate change solution.

Congressional Conference on the Farm Bill: What is at Stake for Food Waste?

Capitol Building
By Ian Hardman, Research & Publications Intern, and Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Monday, August 13, 2018

With the U.S. Senate voting on July 31 to join the House of Representatives in conference on their respective Farm Bills, the two houses face major challenges to resolve the wide gaps in many elements. Reauthorized every 5 years or so, the Farm Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that affects all facets of the American food supply. We highlight the gaps between the House and Senate bills in new and continuing provisions promoting the reduction of wasted food, the reuse of edible food, and recycling of food waste. Representing a mere rounding error in the budget, they have been understandably overshadowed by the conflicts over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which dominates the budget.

Paper or Bio-Plastic? Innovative Packaging to Prevent Food Loss

Innovations in food packaging create opportunities to reduce food loss (Pixabay)
By Lauren Petersil, Research and Publications Intern
Monday, April 9, 2018

It’s well known that up to 40% of food in the United States goes to waste. As a result, a large portion of the blue water utilized in agricultural irrigation ends up back in the ground—not in aquifers, but in landfills. While the majority of food waste in the United States is attributable to the disposal of safe, edible foods, a considerable amount of food that goes to landfill is “lost” due to spoilage or food being otherwise deemed unfit for human use. 

Sustainable Business Models for Codigesting Food Waste

Creating Energy from Food Waste (EPA/Flickr)
By Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Monday, March 19, 2018

The wastewater sector’s “Utility of the Future” (UOTF) initiative envisions the sector’s transformation from managing waste to recovering and recycling valuable resources, thereby creating financial benefits for utilities, as well as environmental and economic development benefits for communities. Adding food waste to anaerobic digesters (AD) processing sewage sludge, a process called codigestion, is a promising UOTF innovation that expands the sector’s potential to recover renewable biogas for heat, power, and fuel, and to extract nutrients for fertilizers and soil amendments.

Yet, U.S. adoption of codigestion remains low: about 1 in 10 wastewater resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) have adopted AD, and about 1 in 10 of those is codigesting. To address this untapped potential, ELI has launched a new project to identify alternative sustainable business models for successful codigestion.

Analyzing the Food Rescue Landscape in Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee (Wikimedia Commons)
By Emmett McKinney, Former Research Associate, JoAnne Berkenkamp, Senior Advocate, Food & Agriculture Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney; Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs
Monday, November 20, 2017

Some say leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving. While that may be true, the rest of the year, there are ample missed opportunities to donate surplus prepared foods from institutions and restaurants. Realizing these opportunities is an important way to waste less food and feed more people, because up to 40% of food (along with the water, energy, and land used in production) goes to waste every year in the United States. At the same time, over 13% of Americans—one in eight—experience food insecurity.

FOOD WASTE: Onsite Food Waste Pre-processing Systems: Is Recycling Really Happening?

By Taz [CC BY 2.0 (http:/creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia C
By Christopher Wright, Research and Publications Intern, and Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Recycling food waste through composting and anaerobic digestion has the greatest potential by far to reduce the quantity of food waste going to landfills over the next 15 years relative to food waste reduction and reuse, according to ReFED. However, as more cities and states institute landfill food waste bans and other programs to promote recycling, the demand for centralized organic processing facilities is outpacing the supply. To address the gap, vendors are actively marketing to commercial customers new onsite pre-processing systems, including dehydrators, pulpers, and biodigesters. The systems can save money by reducing or eliminating off-site hauling of food waste and are well suited to facilities short on space and staff time. But the question arises: are the nutrients and energy in food waste really being recycled?  The answer depends upon the next stage of processing.

FOOD WASTE: “Smart Technology” Promises to Revolutionize Recycling

Enevo Sensor System
By Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar, Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney; Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs, and Emmett McKinney, Former Research Associate
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Imagine the dumpsters behind restaurant row in your community signaling their hauling company to come pick them up because they are full and about to overflow, or their food is rotting and about to stink up the neighborhood. Such are the promises for waste management of new “smart technologies,” based on sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, big data, and social networks.

FOOD WASTE: Food Donation Receives a Technology Boost

smart phone and food
By Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney; Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs, Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar, and Emmett McKinney, Former Research Associate
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

In a Vibrant Environment blog post on February 17, 2017, we provided an overview of the types of approaches that cities and states can use to address the environmental and social justice implications of wasting 40%  of the food that is produced in the United States. We addressed reducing food waste before it happens, but because that is not always possible, we turn now to the next best alternative—rescuing or donating wasted food.