June 4, 2013
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the launch of the Food Waste Challenge June 4, calling for support from farmers, retailers, consumers and food processors and manufacturers to lessen a mountain of food that ends up as garbage.
“Food waste is the single largest type of waste entering our landfills — Americans throw away up to 40 percent of their food,” said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “Addressing this issue helps to combat hunger and save money, while also combating climate change.”
In U.S. landfills, food waste decomposes to become methane, one of the greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. Food production and transportation also contribute to greenhouse emissions, so preventing waste contributes to further reducing the energy consumed and the emissions produced in those activities.
USDA and EPA are asking American individuals, businesses and institutions to attack the problem three ways: reduce food loss and waste, recover wholesome food for human consumption and recycle discards to other uses, including animal feed, composting and energy generation.
EPA already has some tools in place to help the public achieve these goals, developed from a food recovery program launched in 2012. More than 200 businesses, universities and other organizations have made the commitment to prevent food from entering their landfills with a three-pronged strategy. They take greater care in estimating food needs, divert what exceeds their needs to other users and compost waste into organic material that nurtures further food production.
The EPA Food Recovery Program has won the backing of industry heavyweights such as the Grocery Manufacturers of America and the National Restaurant Association.
For World Environment Day June 5, UNEP is asking people to reduce their “foodprint” and follow recommendations similar to that advocated by EPA. UNEP quotes a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimate that 1.3 billion tons of food go to waste each year, at the same time one in every seven persons worldwide is hungry each day.
Food waste goes beyond the loss of calories and nutrients that a hungry child might need, according to UNEP. It also uselessly discards resources and energy consumed to produce the foodstuffs.
“For example, it takes about 1,000 litres of water to produce 1 litre of milk and about 16,000 litres goes into a cow’s food to make a hamburger,” according to a UNEP document.
UNEP cites food production as the cause of 80 percent of deforestation and 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.