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March 15, 2016 > Focus on food waste

Focus on food waste

Submitted By Tri-CED Community Recycling

With increasing social consciousness surrounding food waste to recent legislation banning supermarkets from discarding or destroying unsold food in France, the epidemic of food waste in industrialized countries floats, once again, to the forefront of collective attention. Closer to home, in the United States, Representative Chellie Pingree, congresswoman from Maine, is currently drafting a comprehensive bill to address food waste at the farm, consumer, and institutional levels.

The phrase Òfood wasteÓ encompasses a broad spectrum of the growing problem from point of production to consumption, or rather lack of consumption, by the end consumer. On the front end, farmers grow too much and manufacturers produce excess quantities. Damage in transport, stringent cosmetic demands, and unnecessarily strict Òsell-byÓ dates are some of the justifications given for the overproduction. About 40 percent of food in the United States is never eaten, resulting in $165 billion a year in waste, according to a 2012 report from the National Resources Defense Council. The loss is not just in the wasted food, but also in wasted water resources and increases in greenhouse gas emissions from the overproduced food rotting in landfills.

Representative PingreeÕs proposed bill would seek to address change through provisions such as disclaimers under manufacturersÕ Òsell-byÓ dates, tax credits for farmers who harvest less cosmetically-perfect produce, an expanded Good Samaritan law for organizations looking to donate food, and increased awareness campaigns targeted at consumers.

Food waste in U.S. households has increased 50 percent as compared to levels back in the 1970s. Several factors have led to this increase including growing portion sizes (which leads to several health issues), consumersÕ time and convenience, and basic lack of awareness of the sheer magnitude of the problem. Most Americans have become comfortable with tossing out fruits or vegetables that have gone bad in the fridge or scraping leftovers into the compost bin (or even worse, into the garbage can). But, multiple the actions of one household Ð about 20 pounds of wasted food per person  by all households in the U.S., and you wind up with an astonishing wasted food bill of $165 billion each year.

What can we do to stop the madness? Break wasteful habits and adapt new cultural adjustments. Just as recycling awareness has slowly taken hold and molded our habits of where we consciously throw our plastic bottles and aluminum cans, so too does our collective consciousness need to become aware of, and uncomfortable with, throwing out food. ÒWe are just now recognizing that we squander a good amount of our foodÉ the next step is getting people to see it as a problem and act,Ó says Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, a chronicle of waste throughout the food system.

Hopefully with guidance from a proposed congressional bill and a joint USDA and EPA plan to reduce the countryÕs food waste by 50 percent by 2030 (http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2015/09/0257.xml), Americans will become more aware and re-think their own habits.

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