According to ReFED, a nonprofit focused on curbing food waste, roughly 35 percent of food in the U.S. went unsold or uneaten in 2019. Most of this waste ends up being sent to landfill—current EPA estimates state that food and yard waste compose roughly 30 percent of the municipal solid waste stream sent to landfill every year.
Because this waste is left to decompose, it gives off a notable greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint equivalent to 4 percent of total GHG emissions in the U.S. (8 percent of GHG emissions when measured globally). These emissions have been directly linked to global warming.
Coupling this data with the fact with one in seven Americans remains food insecure, it is no wonder why organic waste bans and regulations have gained traction in recent years.
Some states such as California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont—and municipalities—Austin, Texas; Boulder, Colorado; Hennepin County, Minnesota; Portland, Oregon; New York City; and Seattle—have already passed organic waste bans or mandatory organics recycling laws.
With the advancement of these state and local regulations comes an obvious trickle down that affects waste industry participants, commercial businesses and residents alike.
In this issue’s Organics Waste Management supplement, we highlight how stakeholders are embracing a shift to more responsible food waste practices.
In “Leading the Way,” Republic Services Director of Organics Operations Chris Seney shares some of the best practices that go into handling the 1.7 billion pounds of organic waste the company processes annually. Specifically, Seney highlights what Republic is doing to build advanced composting facilities, preprocessing sites and food diversion programs in California.
In California, where SB 1383 legislation will require every home and business in the state to recycle their organics when the policy is officially implemented on Jan. 1 of next year, the ramifications for the waste industry are clear—ramping up investment in organic recycling infrastructure is a necessity, not a choice.
To this end, CalRecycle has estimated that the state will need approximately 100 to 150 new compost facilities and anaerobic digestion facilities to achieve the state’s target of diverting 15 million tons of organic waste away from landfill by 2025.
Of course, not all states will take as stringent of an approach to managing organics as California or some of the aforementioned states that already have regulations in place; however, the move to more diversion-centric hauling requirements is clearly only trending in one direction.
And while managing food and yard waste comes with new challenges in these progressive states and localities—namely in the form of building collection and processing infrastructure in conjunction with existing routes and facilities—those haulers able to meet the guidelines laid out in their respective territories will have a clear leg up to win work and the recognition that comes with facilitating a greener approach to waste.