By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.
California will soon launch the largest household food waste recycling program in the United States, following the enactment of similar initiatives in the state of Vermont and the cities of Seattle and San Francisco.
Food waste is a big contributor to global warming and reducing the former would mitigate the latter. Waste Dive reports:
Between 73 and 152 million metric tons of food gets wasted each year in the U.S., or over over a third of the country’s food supply, according to a recent report from the U.S. [Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)]. The most commonly wasted foods are fruits and vegetables, followed by dairy and eggs. Over half of all waste occurs at households and restaurants. The food processing sector generates 34 million metric tons of waste per year, the agency said.
In 2015, the EPA set a goal of halving U.S. food waste by 2030 (see United States 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal). Like similar such promises during that pre-Trump period, there was little progress towards this goal beyond the virtue signalling phase, before Trump became president and repudiated even that inadequate lip service. Instead, during the last decade, food loss and waste have actually increased by 12% to 14%, according to EPA figures cited by Waste Dive.
Nonetheless, the benefits that would follow getting serious about the goal of halving food waste are substantial, according to Waste Dive:
[Reducing food waste by half in the U.S.] would save 3.2 trillion gallons of blue water, 640 million pounds of fertilizer, 262 billion kilowatt hours of energy, 92 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and over 75 million acres of agricultural land. Reducing waste of meats, cereals and fresh fruits and vegetables would have the biggest environmental impact, according to the agency.
The Guardian reported on the details of California’s soon-to-be compulsory food waste recycling plan in California tackles food waste with largest recycling program in US:
Starting in January, all cities and counties that provide trash services are supposed to have food recycling programs in place and grocery stores must donate edible food that otherwise would be thrown away to food banks or similar organizations.
“There’s just no reason to stick this material in a landfill, it just happens to be cheap and easy to do so,” said Ned Spang, faculty lead for the Food Loss and Waste Collaborative at the University of California, Davis.
California’s cities and municipalities will collect the waste in special containers, and it will then be converted into compost or biogas. Exemptions will be made for heavily rural areas. Collection efforts will borrow from existing programs. Per the Guardian:
Davis, California, already has a mandatory food recycling program. Joy Klineberg puts coffee grounds, fruit rinds and cooking scraps into a metal bin labeled “compost” on her countertop. When preparing dinners, she empties excess food from the cutting board into the bin.
Every few days, she dumps the contents into her green waste bin outside, which is picked up and sent to a county facility. Unpleasant countertop bin smells haven’t been a problem, she said.
“All you’re changing is where you’re throwing things, it’s just another bin,” she said. “It’s really easy, and it’s amazing how much less trash you have.”
I’ve long lambasted those who rely more or less solely on the recycling fairy to solve the plastics crisis. Many don’t appreciate that by advocating concentrating on recycling solutions alone, they’re endorsing the industry agenda of shifting responsibility for cleaning up the plastics mess from plastics pushers who profit from selling plastics to ordinary people. And that’s even before considering that very low recycling rates mean that the impact of recycling plastic on reducing what gets thrown into landfills is miniscule.
By contrast, food recycling could could mitigateclimate change, if conscientiously implemented. According to the Guardian:
“This is the biggest change to trash since recycling started in the 1980s,” said Rachel Wagoner, the director of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.
Recycling food waste “is the single easiest and fastest thing that every single person can do to affect climate change”, Wagoner said.
The Guardian notes that California’s program targets households and businesses, in contrast to that of France, which requires grocery stores and other large businesses to recycle food waste or donate food to charities. The pandemic has weakened food security for many in the U.S. was well as spurred a huge increase in reliance on food banks. to meet the food needs of many. California’s new plan also includes a goal of feeding the hungry:
The state also set a 2025 goal of diverting 20% of food that would otherwise go to landfills to feed people in need. Supermarkets must start donating their excess food in January and hotels, restaurants, hospitals, schools and large event venues will start doing so in 2024. The donation part of the law will contribute toward a federal goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030.
The Waste Dive article discussed some ongoing corporate efforts to reduce food waste, one of which caught my eye as it would help alleviate the plastics crisis:
Produce accounts for between 34% and 40% of U.S. food waste, according to data from ReFED and the Food and Agriculture Organization cited in the EPA report.Produce giant Dole has announced its commitment to zero fruit loss by 2025. One way it is tackling the issue involves repurposing pineapple leaves to make a biodegradable mesh material called Piñatex, used in clothes by brands like Nike and H&M. It also launched a consumer campaign in New York City last September which involved displaying food waste facts on trash cans throughout the city.
During the course of my textile research, I’ve attempted to track down producers who continue to make traditional textiles from natural fibers other than the familiar ones, e.g., cotton, silk, wool, and linen. Some of these efforts have proved to be wild goose chases, in particular one quest during a trip to Nagaland about a decade ago, when I searched in vain for people who made textiles out of nettles. IRRC, pineapple fiber was used in the Phillippines to create luxurious lace – although I’ve never seen any examples myself. This Dole effort looks interesting, as it would take waste generated before pineapple even gets to consumers and transform it into something useful. Thus the resources we devote to producing pineapples could yield additional outputs, with Piñatex fashioned from waste that was previously discarded.