What is currently being done to address the issue of food waste?

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intheknow eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2011 alone, over 36 billion tons of food waste was generated with only about 4% of that ending up in a "food recycling" program.  There are many ways food waste can be addressed, among which are: food waste reduction and prevention, donate fresh food to people in need, feed animals, turn eligible waste (fats, oil, etc) into bio fuels, compost food for soil amendments, and yield renewable energy and soil amendments via anaerobic digestion.

Management of non-hazardous waste, food waste, falls within the responsibility of local municipalities, although there are many U.S. companies that actively participate in responsible waste management.  For example, it is reported Whole Foods organizes their waste and food waste is sent for composting, keeping it from ending up in landfills.  There are many programs, or pilot programs in place around the country today that address diverting food waste from landfills to compost facilities.  While there are many environmental benefits to addressing food waste, it comes with its own challenges, among which are additional handling costs and locations of these sites impose on the surrounding community with a "smell" factor.  Another issue is creating incentive for individuals and businesses alike.

One approach that is gaining popularity in Europe and made its debut in the U.S. in Massachusettes, is the ban of food waste in landfills.  By July 2014, any company or business in MA that produces 1 or more tons of organic food waste must donate what is edible, compost, or dispose of it at an anaerobic digestion plant.  At this time, other states adopting or proposing legislation for similar bans are Connecticut, Vermont, and New York.

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