For generations, we have been thinking of creative ways to tackle food waste and address food security. Food wastage goes beyond the loss of food and beverage products—it’s the loss of other (often non-renewable) resources such as cultivable soil, potable water, packaging materials, fuel, transportation services, storage facilities, and labor.
According to a study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2018, nearly 25 tons of wasted food were attributed to the residential sector. The manufacturing and processing sectors generated nearly 40 tons of wasted food within the same year. Food wastage is growing at an alarming rate and it’s negatively impacting our ability to recover from climate change.
In response to this, California recently passed a law that will require households and businesses to separately discard their organic waste into allotted bins. The law will go into effect in January 2022, and is the first initiative of its kind in the United States.
Organic Waste Collection Could become a Game Changer
According to the South Bayside Waste Management Authority, 30% of landfills waste in California is both organic and compostable. Organic waste collection significantly cuts down on carbon emissions and reduces the production of methane from growing landfills. This increases the opportunity to compost organic matter on a larger scale.
The Advantages of Composting
Composting is the recycling of organic matter, such as food, into products like mulch or manure. With the steady decline of cultivable land and the rise of vertical farming practices, producers are tasked with matching supply with demand. The pandemic witnessed the growth (and prosperity) of home chefs, rooftop gardeners, and health coaches, to name a few. It has also had an impact on supply chain systems. Through composting, the nutritional value of the soil can be recuperated, without the need for synthetic or chemical supplements.
Impacting Food Culture Positively
The first birth place of a culture is at home. This regulation might also result in a movement, inspiring households in other states to follow the precedent set by residents of California. As with most state-wide or nation-wide changes, it may be a bit challenging at first. With the right educational tools, more individuals will be empowered to evaluate their food wastage habits, and possibly change them. For change to remain sustainable, it must occur at the systemic level, and not just dissipate at the individual level.
Creation of Job Opportunities
According to Waste 360, this measure is projected to create close to 11,700 permanent green jobs as well as 4,500 temporary construction jobs to build additional organic waste recycling facilities.
It will be interesting to see how other states and, possibly, countries, may be inspired to roll out similar regulations.