Green Groups Urge Congress to Cut Food Waste In Half

Graphic by Annabel Driussi for ODP

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

Food waste is a serious concern in the United States — every year, between 30 and 40% of all food in the country is unsold or uneaten. The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), ReFED, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), among other companies and NGOs, are encouraging the federal government to cut US food waste in half by 2030 through five key actions:


  1. Fund infrastructure that measures, recycles, and thwart food waste from being dumped in landfills or incinerated.
  2. Find ways to formalize donating surplus food and fortify local supply chains.
  3. Make the US government a model of food waste management globally. 
  4. Promote private and public food waste avoidance campaigns that can educate consumers.
  5. Enforce a national date labeling standard, so consumers can determine more accurately when food has spoiled. 


Why This Matters: The statistics paint a sobering picture of how dire the food waste crisis has become. $408 billion worth of food — 2% of the US GDP — is wasted, and less than ten percent of this excess food is donated. According to statistics from Northwestern University, 1 in 4 households have experienced food insecurity last year, or 23% of households. Black and Latino families are twice as likely as white families to face food insecurity, those without high school degrees experienced food insecurity at 27%, and adults with disabilities experience twice the rate of food insecurity as adults without them — making this an environmental justice issue as well. 


Should the federal government take into consideration this report’s recommendations, it would be an opportunity to take meaningful action on hunger and food waste alike. 


Waste Not, Want Not: Food waste is also a climate issue — food waste comprises 4% of US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Moreover, food waste that goes directly into landfills contributes to the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 

Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States. In 2018 they released the about the same amount of methane as the GHGs emitted by more than 20.6 million passenger vehicles driven for one year

Pete Pearson, Senior Director of Food Loss and Waste at WWF, told Our Daily Planet: “Immediately removing food and organic waste from our landfills will have a direct impact by reducing GHG emissions. More importantly, the food system carries an incredibly high carbon footprint when we consider farming, transportation, refrigeration and disposal. When we work to measure and prevent food waste, along with creating a more circular system where unavoidable food waste is turned into energy or compost, we create a system that can be in better balance with nature. Nothing is wasted in nature.”


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