States are trying to curb America’s huge food waste problem

It’s about climate change and food security.

Over 130 billion pounds of food are thrown out in the United States every year. When one in eight Americans suffer from food insecurity, that’s more than a climate change problem.

Watch the video to find out how states are trying to solve the issue.


VICTORIA FLEISCHER, ThinkProgress: Americans waste over 130 billion pounds of food every year. Most of that food ends up in landfills, where it decomposes, producing greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Basically, food waste is a huge problem.

Americans don’t consume 30–40 percent of food produced, thanks in part to a lot of confusion about sell by labels and an obsession with perfect produce. According to the Department of Agriculture, food is the single largest component of municipal landfills in the United States. The cost of all that organic waste — from growing it to disposing of it — is roughly $218 billion per year.

So, some states have come up with a variety of ways to tackle the problem.

Eight states offer incentives to producers and retailers that donate to food banks, hoping that usable waste can help combat food insecurity. Some create an addition tax credit on top of an already existing federal credit, so smaller operations that can’t afford to make regular donations will now get more money to do just that.


Others create protections so donors don’t have to worry about lawsuits over food gone bad. Two more states — Maryland and Virginia — have similar bills up for debate,

Then, there are the 5 states that are focusing on emissions, restricting the amount of food that producers can dump in the landfill. Maryland, New Jersey, and New York are considering similar proposals.

But these restrictions aren’t all encompassing. Four out of the 5 states restrict the amount of organic waste from the largest producers only and three states exempt producers that are too far from recycling or composting facilities.

Finally, there’s California, Oregon, and Colorado, who are using food waste to create biofuel. That biofuel is then used to power — say, city vehicles in San Diego.

Clearly, these policies could reduce our reliance on oil, and, as technology advances, the conversion process becomes faster and faster, making it more efficient than composting.

And while states try to hammer out some kinks, businesses have stepped in the mix.

Grocery manufacturers and retailers are working together to adopt standardized date labels on packages. And some companies are claiming the role of middleman — collecting imperfect produce from farms and restaurants and selling it to consumers at a discount.


Are you looking for some of that discounted food? There are several apps for that. There are also apps to help producers or individuals donate to food pantries, and others that even let you donate a meal when you enjoy one yourself.

For years, large farms and retailers have been at odds with environmental groups fighting over policies like bans on plastic bags and regulations over fertilizer use. But reducing food inefficiency? That’s something everyone can get behind.