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The White House takes a bite out of the huge pile of food waste

The Biden administration has issued its first national strategy to tackle a major national problem: food waste.

About 30 percent The country’s food supply is not eaten but thrown away or wasted. In fact, food is the largest volume of material sent to landfills and incinerators in the United States. When food waste is put into landfills, it decomposes and generate more and more greenhouse gas emissions every year as do dozens of coal-burning power plants, according to the federal government.

The White House strategy involves efforts to change the behavior of both businesses and individuals to reduce waste, as well as funding research to extend the shelf life of perishable foods, expanding food donations products and improve local infrastructure and policies to turn food waste into usable goods. such as compost, gas or animal feed.

“Everyone has a role to play in reducing food loss and waste, and I hope that these federal commitments will inspire and spur action in the private sector,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. individuals and communities across the United States.” organ.

This strategy is inconsistent with food waste laws in other countries and even the laws of some US states. It has no new regulations. Dana Gunders, head of ReFED, a food waste research and advocacy group, called the strategy “a good first step.”

The United States set a goal in 2015 to cut food waste in half by 2030. The strategy announced Wednesday aims to chart a path to get there.

According to ReFED’s latest data, 2021, United States produced 91 million tons Unsold, unsold food. Almost half of it is still edible, but just 2 percent was donated.

ReFED research shows that 20% of food is lost at the farm level in the United States. The reason may be that the grower cannot get a high enough price for a crop of tomatoes, or perhaps the tomatoes do not meet the size, shape or color specifications set by food retailers. fabricate.

Stores, restaurants and commercial kitchens throw away unsold food. And at home, many people throw away food that is still safe to eat, in part because of the “best” label. can cause confusion and it doesn’t necessarily indicate when the food is bad.

There has been some progress in cutting down on food waste. From 2019 to 2022, eight supermarket chains that voluntarily committed to reducing food waste reported a 25 percent off of their total unsold food volume.

Startups have emerged in recent years to tackle the waste problem. Some uses Artificial intelligence for reconnaissance about what’s in place so retailers can make better shopping decisions. The app offers shoppers budget-friendly deals on groceries and restaurant meals that are about to go bad.

For more than 20 years, South Korea has banned food or leftovers from being put in the trash. Instead, food waste is used to make compost, animal feed or biogas.

France has mandatory composting laws, which means municipalities must provide people with ways to divert organic waste from landfills. In 2016, France became the first country to require supermarkets to donate safe food.

California is the furthest place. Since 2022, the state has required grocery stores to donate, not throw away “the maximum amount of edible food that would otherwise be destroyed” or face fines. This year, large restaurants, hotels and hospital canteens must also comply with this law.

The law also requires every city and county to reduce the amount of organic waste sent to landfills by 75% by 2025, compared to 2014 levels. That means building more composting facilities or installing Install a biogas generator from organic waste.

Some other states have a patchwork of laws.

Washington state asks grocery stores to donate food that is still safe to eat. Vermont requires its residents to compost food. Maryland offers farmers a tax credit if they donate edible food. Massachusetts limits the amount of food businesses can send to landfills. And New York requires large food businesses to donate surplus edible foods and “recycle” remaining scraps if they are within 25 miles of a digester or anaerobic digester.

Emily Broad Leib, who runs Food Law, said: “It has been difficult to pass a national organic waste ban for a number of reasons, but I would love to see the federal government introduce more incentives for cities and states adopt those policies.” and the Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School.

The White House said it will fund research into technologies that can extend the shelf life of food, such as new seeds and packaging.

The government will also invest in research to measure “the effectiveness of different consumer messages to encourage households to reduce food waste” and help students learn tips for preventing waste food, including in school cafeterias, which can be a huge source of food waste.

The agriculture agency said it is also working with farmers, crop insurance agents and others to reduce food loss on farms.


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