New Federal Bills Target Food Waste

Compost bin in the garden

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

A new series of bills have been introduced in Congress that aim to quell food waste. These bills — the Zero Food Waste Act, and the Cultivating Organic Matter through the Promotion of Sustainable Techniques Act (COMPOST) —will reduce food waste and in turn help create jobs, slow climate change, and improve soil health. 

Why This Matters: Though at least one in eight people in the US experience food insecurity, nearly half of food in the U.S. is lost or wasted — wasting $408 billion that had been spent on growing, transporting, and disposing of it. 

Additionally, a new report out today from WWF and Tesco called Driven to Waste, quantifies the total amount of food lost on farms globally, revealing an estimated 2.5 billion tons of food goes uneaten around the world each year. Ensuring that we’re wasting less food and eating what we do grow can ensure that all people have enough to eat while also addressing emissions from agriculture.

Waste Not Want Not:

The Zero Food Waste Act would establish an EPA program that would give grants to state, tribal, and local governments to develop programs that prevent food waste. These programs could include projects that find the largest sources of food waste, mitigate food waste, rescue food scraps, and create incentives for composting. $650 million will be awarded annually for these projects through 2030.

Meanwhile, the COMPOST Act will help make sure food scraps are composted and returned to the soil. The bill would make compost projects eligible for federal funding by designating it as an approved conservation practice, and would distribute $200 million annually for composting projects over the next 10 years. According to US PIRG, Americans landfilled or incinerated over 50 million tons of compostable waste in 2015–enough to fill a line of fully-loaded 18-wheelers, stretching from New York City to Los Angeles ten times. Increasing capacity for compost is important to mitigating emissions by keeping organic matter out of landfills where it can emit methane

Both acts will prioritize proposals from communities of color, low-income communities, and Tribal communities, who are disproportionately affected by the food waste crisis. 

These bills will push forward the US Food Loss and Waste Action Plan, a project by the NRDC, WWF, Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, and RFED, which asked for leadership from the federal government to achieve the national goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030.

As Pete Pearson, WWF’s global food loss and waste lead said,

Organic waste is the number one item by volume entering our landfills and is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire US airline industry, all while millions of Americans experience hunger. Simply put, food is too valuable to throw away. The Zero Food Waste Act would support state, local, and tribal communities making the policy changes and infrastructure investments needed to develop a circular food economy, invest in community health and jobs, and curb greenhouse gas emissions. By leading here at home, the US can show the world how to invest in food systems where people and nature thrive.”

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