Top reads food waste – United States

Yifan Li

10 November 2018

Food waste is a big issue for the United States. About 30-40 percent of food in the US is wasted. It is the largest fraction going into municipal landfills. In 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and EPA announced the first ever domestic goal to reduce food loss and waste (FLW) by half by 2030. This aligns with Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. So how can the US work toward achieve this goal? In this article, we’ve put together a few top reads and resources on tackling food waste in the US.

Food waste at City level

Estimating Quantities and Types of Food Waste at the City Level by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a first-of-its-kind food waste baseline assessment study. The study was conducted in three US cities—Denver, Nashville, and New York City—covering both residential and non-residential sectors. It characterizes the amount of food waste in these cities and identifies reasons behind such waste. The study aims to inform and inspire initiatives to prevent food waste, rescue surplus food to benefit people in need, and to recycle food scraps.

As a city, you can use the templates and methodologies derived from the NRDC study and its following report, Modeling the Potential to Increase Food Rescue, to:

  • create your own working models for food waste assessment
  • explore opportunities at the city level for redirecting additional surplus foods to those in need, and
  • conduct further research on consumer behaviors and attitudes.

27 solutions for Food Waste

ReFED is another great platform to be inspired about food waste reduction. It’s a multi-stakeholder nonprofit, supported by businesses, nonprofits, foundations, and government leaders committed to reducing food waste in the United States. ReFED has identified 27 Solutions to Food Waste, from prevention to recovery to recycling, for the US to reduce food waste. The interactive chart ranks the effectiveness of solutions with different metrics. This includes financial benefits, waste diversion, emissions reduction, water conservation, jobs creation and meal recovery. Alongside the solutions, you can find recommendations for stakeholder actions, examples and resources as well as challenges to overcome.

Cases New York and San Fransisco

You can learn more about best-practice food waste initiatives within the US through our previous blog posts. Gijs Langeveld interviewed the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Sanitation, Kathryn Garcia, to hear about the newly introduced separate collection of organic waste in New York City and the biggest challenges it faces. Kat Heinrich took us on a local tour to Haven’s, a zero-waste kitchen in the city, to explore the specific zero waste practices that the restaurant does. You may also find here San Francisco’s journey towards a high-performing food waste composting program, as well as other actions undertaken in the US to tackle food waste, including innovation in food donations, food waste reduction for profit, government action, and those who strive to move beyond food waste.

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