Even though Americans have grown somewhat more conscientious about recycling paper and yard trimmings, we still throw a tremendous amount of food in the garbage each day.
Announced by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a food, beverage and packaging maker’s industry alliance has been formed to reduce the amount of food sent to landfills and to increase donations to food banks for the poor. It is being carried out in conjunction with the Food Marketing Institute.
Fully edible, a substantial portion of food is thrown away simply because of cosmetic blemishes or overstocking.
Meghan Stasz, a sustainability consultant for the group said, “This is not a problem that will be solved in three years.” Changing consumer habits will be a challenge.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency says that according to the most recent available statistics, more than 36 million tons of food was dumped in landfills in 2011, making food by far the most abundant material there by weight. (That calculation excludes industrial, construction and hazardous waste.)
A statistic from an article published in 2009 in the journal PLos calculates that food waste accounts for almost one-quarter of all freshwater use in the country and the environmental consequences are considerable. With a warming potential that is 20 times greater than that of carbon dioxide, rotting food in open landfills releases significant quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas
Over the last two decades, the lack of progress in redirecting food waste from landfills has persisted as something of an anomaly. The amount of food composted or redirected from landfills has decreased while overall recycling rates, including the composting of yard trimmings, has risen by 10 percent since 1990. By contrast, 62 percent of paper is recycled but only 2 percent of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled.
A leadership committee convened in June that included the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute whose co-chairmen hold sustainability positions at General Mills, one of the world’s largest food processors, and Publix, the grocery store chain. Among others, Feeding America, a nonprofit network of food banks, and Waste Management a national waste removal company were also represented on the committee.
As Ms. Stasz put it, “from food processing facility to fork,” the committee will first conduct a comprehensive survey of the sources and causes of food waste. Second, public policies that could expand the diversion of food from landfills to food banks will be identified by the initiative. And third, new technologies and industry practices supporting other goals will be identified by the committee.
In a move that would not only cut transport distances but also make compost services a more viable choice economically, a proposal has been made to locate food processors, retailers and restaurants in close geographical proximities.
It is estimated that about 10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.
As it stands now, more than 50 million households cannot meet their basic food needs.
tremendous amount of food in the garbage each day, 36 million tons of food was dumped in landfills in 2011,