Food waste in the U.S. is a big problem, accounting for about 31 percent of the nation’s food supply, or 133 billion pounds. It makes up 21 percent of U.S. municipal solid waste in landfills, and as a result it accounts for the lion’s share of landfill methane emissions. Methane is a greenhouse gas with a warming potential 21 times that of carbon dioxide — and landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the U.S.
It is not just the waste of food, but the enclosed losses - from excess production costs, transport storage and packaging, and monetary costs of consumer purchases. In western economies most food waste losses are post production, an area well worthy of targetting for reductions.
Given the size of the problem, it is a major deal that last week U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg announced the nation’s first national food waste reduction goal.
The goal is a 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2030. The federal government is leading a new partnership with the private sector, nonprofit organizations, and state and tribal governments to reduce food waste and loss. “Our new reduction goal demonstrates America’s leadership on a global level in in getting wholesome food to people who need it, protecting our natural resources, cutting environmental pollution, and promoting innovative approaches for reducing food loss and waste,” Vilsack said in a statement.
This isn’t the first time the US federal government has worked on the issue of food waste. In 2013, the Department of Agriculture and EPA launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, which gives organizations and leaders the place to share practices for reducing, recovering and recycling food waste.
By the end of last year, the challenge had over 4,000 active participants, well over the goal of 1,000 participants by 2020.