The Beginning of the End of Food Waste?

Written by Richard Winkler, Co-Chair of Food Recovery Working Group

'Food Waste is a national and a local issue. About a third of food grown goes uneaten. And food waste with other organics going into landfills is a major source of GHG emissions. But this week in San Diego could be the beginning of the end of food waste. We are amid an unprecedented increase of public awareness about the issue and there are multiple specific milestones to point to.

In March, ReFED published a comprehensive report called “a Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste" listing out specific food waste actions with a detailed cost / benefit analysis. The report posits a 5 to 1 Return on investment to reduce food waste.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has teamed up with the Ad Council – the public service advertising agency that brought you Smokey Bear and Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk – to launch a nationwide public service campaign to reduce food waste.  After over a year of research and development, the campaign will launch in April 2016.  A preview the soon to be released Nationwide Public Service Campaign to Reduce Food Waste will be held on Thursday April 28th at 1:00pm - 2:30pm ET Register Here 

In 2014 California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1826, introduced by Assembly Member Wesley Chesbro, which requires the state’s commercial sector, including restaurants, supermarkets, large venues and food processors, to separate their food scraps and yard trimmings and arrange for organics recycling service. Commencing Friday April 1st, businesses that generate 8 cubic yards (cy) or more a week must source separate food scraps and yard trimmings and arrange for recycling services for that organic waste in a specified manner.

On Monday Apr 4th to Thursday April 7th, state and national leaders in organics management field will come to San Diego for the annual BioCycle Conference focusing on “Advancing Food Recovery And Organics Recycling.”

The conference will cover: 
Food Recovery for People
Clean Compost for Healthy Soils, Drought Resilience
Feeding People And Feeding Soil
Low Cost, Low Carbon Fuel And Power
Water Resource Recovery And Clean Energy
Strong, Local Green Economies

Wed. Apr 6 To coincide with these other events the San Diego Food System Alliance hosts the first in a series of Unwasted Food pop-up dinners where local chefs and partner restaurants will prepare dishes from ignored or un-coveted food that would otherwise go to waste.
Re:Source aims to…
•    Raise awareness of the staggering volume of food that is wasted
•    Inspire new applications for the overlooked byproducts of our food system
•    Redefine food waste as an important resource
•    Establish new revenue streams for local farmers

What Can Consumers Do?

Ending food waste is completely feasible. It is a 100% human created problem and like many other modern problems, has really only mushroomed since World War 2. Re:Source site has a set of practical recommendations on how we can individually make changes at home.

But policy is also important; the single biggest driver of food waste is consumer confusion over date labelling. “Date labels on food come in a dizzying variety of forms including “use by,” “best before,” “sell by,” and “enjoy by” dates, yet these simple markers are both poorly understood and surprisingly under-regulated. Confusing and misleading labels cause many consumers and stores to throw out perfectly healthy food, leading to 5.5 million tons of food dumped in landfills every year in California. Food is the single most prevalent item in our state’s waste stream and emits 8.3 million tons of greenhouse gases each year, contributing 20 percent of the state’s methane emissions.”   - Mar 23, 2016 Assemblymember David Chiu

So consumers can support AB 2725 which would simplify date labelling in CA.  The bill is now being debated in the CA Legislature. “AB2725 would make California the first state to have such legislation in the country, though Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, has been working on similar legislation nationally.

“This addresses the everyday experience that we all have, when we look at our refrigerator at dozens of products and have to decide if we should throw out products that may still be good but have different expiration labels,” said Chiu.”