It’s well known that our society produces too much waste, but food waste is particularly important because there is an easy alternate solution: composting. However, composting is not usually utilized. In 2010, America discarded 34 million tons of food; that’s 14% of all municipal solid waste! Much of this food is still in decent condition when it is discarded, and could instead be used to feed some of the millions of Americans who lack food and supply needy food kitchens.
Food waste is a huge problem at home. In 2006, the average American household threw away 14% of the food they had purchased-that’s $600 in the trash. But, it is especially significant in the restaurant and grocery industries since their business is food! Unfortunately, grocery stores don’t always like to give food away because they are afraid of being liable if someone gets sick. They cannot guarantee food will be handled properly after it is donated and worry they will be held responsible for any negative outcomes. However, the contrary is actually true. The “Good Samaritan” Law protects grocery stores from liability if they donate what they think is perfectly good food. Fortunately, many grocery chains, such as Safeway, do participate in food donation programs, and also receive tax benefits. This helps them with ‘going green’ as well as with their bottom line – once again, showing that green saves money.
The EPA outlines five key steps in reducing food waste: reducing its sources, using it to feed people, using it to feed animals, using it for industry, and composting it. All of those steps allow food to be used in ways that don’t include burying it in landfills, taking up valuable and ever-disappearing landfill space. Recently, a new social initiative called “Going Halfsies” developed to allow restaurant goers to choose to eat half a normal portion size and donate the rest of the meal price to charity.
Luckily, there are many food rescue groups fulfilling the second step established by the EPA by getting directly involved. Food Finders in California and Waste Not Want Not in Florida work with restaurants and grocery stores to deliver much needed food to food kitchens. The USDA also supports and encourages the creation of various food recovery programs. Many AmeriCorps programs have been focused around reducing food waste, either by recovering crops left on the fields or collecting food from grocery stores.
Of course, you should also encourage restaurants to compost if they are not donating the food – be sure to ask your local restaurant if they do, and check out the blog Wasted Food and the movie Dive! for more information.
Photo courtesy of Sustainable development and much more