Monday, September 12, 2016

Innovative Solutions to Food Waste

By Katie O'Reilly | Aug 26 2016
If food waste were a country, its greenhouse gas emissions would rank third in the world after the United States and China, according to a United Nations report. The biggest contributors to the problem? Developed countries. 
Photo by Istock/Antonio Gravante
Experts estimate that U.S. citizens trash a full half of all the food we grow and produce. Seventy million tons of it get tossed annually,occupying 18 percent of the space in our landfills. Overall, we are responsible for a quarter of global food waste. The statistics are hard to swallow, considering one in seven Americans are food insecure and 90 percent of us don’t get enough fruits and veggies; even more so given that we trash much of our food because of unrealistic cosmetic standards for produce and overly stringent expiration dates. 

Legislators are finally trying to address the problem with a series of new initiatives that also carry the potential to create jobs, conserve water, and combat climate change. 

Last September, the Obama administration issued the nation’s first-ever call for a reduction in food waste, vowing to cut it in half by 2030. Two months later, Congress authorized landmark legislation to loosen restrictions and increase tax benefits for restaurants, grocery stores, and other institutions that donate food. The Food Date Labeling Act, proposed by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) last May, calls for a new, uniform system of labels that would differentiate between “sell by” and “use by” dates. It’s a companion to the Food Recovery Act that Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced to the House last December, which aims to incentivize school cafeterias to buy “ugly” produce and fund large-scale composting and waste-to-energy facilities in states that restrict landfill-bound food scraps, such as California, Massachusetts, and Vermont. 

The nation’s leading advocacy groups are joining the fight. Last April, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) teamed up with the Ad Council to launch Save the Food, a national media campaign consisting of TV spots, billboard ads, and social media videos that included a website detailing easy ways to cut kitchen waste and extend food’s shelf life. The goal, says Dana Gunders, NRDC staff scientist and author of the Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook, is to show consumers that they can make a difference. “A huge amount of food gets wasted because people don’t understand that expiration labels and wilted lettuce aren’t necessarily indicative of food that’s gone bad,” Gunders says. “Once food waste is on your radar, you kind of wake up to it.”

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