The fight against food waste has taken center stage globally, with unprecedented importance. Efforts to combat this issue surged in 2023, emphasizing methane reduction as a critical strategy to address climate change. Recent research by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed a startling fact: food waste is the leading cause of methane emissions from landfills, accounting for 58 percent of those emissions1. This finding underscores the urgent need for action to reduce emissions by tackling the root cause—reducing the food waste that generates them.

The Nexus Between Food Waste and Methane Emissions

In 2023, attitudes towards food waste underwent a significant shift. The connection between food waste and methane emissions gained newfound attention, prompting stakeholders worldwide to prioritize solutions that address environmental concerns and climate change mitigation. The unveiling of the “Draft National Strategy for Reducing Food Loss and Waste and Recycling Organics” signalled the U.S. government’s commitment to fostering a more circular economy. As part of this strategy, the EPA introduced The Wasted Food Scale, a strategic framework that prioritizes actions to prevent food waste and provides guidance on ecologically friendly disposal methods.

Key Pathways for Managing Food Waste

To reduce emissions by preventing food waste from ending up in landfills, the EPA identifies several favoured pathways for disposal:

Organic Waste Conversion Technologies: Anaerobic digestion (AD) holds great promise for unlocking the energy potential of organic waste materials. AD efficiently transforms organic waste into biogas, a valuable source of clean and renewable energy. By employing fully enclosed tanks known as digesters, various organic materials—such as food waste, grease, and oils—can be converted into biogas. After scrubbing out impurities, the biogas becomes renewable natural gas (RNG), a powerful, non-fossil fuel-based energy source.

Legislation and Limits: On January 1, 2023, a significant milestone was achieved in the fight against food waste. Legislation was enacted, imposing stringent limits on food residuals for a wide range of organizations. Notably, the limit was reduced to one ton per week, reinforcing the state’s commitment to sustainable practices.

A Circular Economy Approach

These disposal and reuse pathways not only have substantial positive environmental impacts but also pave the way for a truly circular economy. By preventing wasted food from reaching landfills, we can mitigate the harmful climate impact of greenhouse emissions. It’s time to embrace innovative solutions, from technology-driven interventions to community-led initiatives, to create a more sustainable and responsible food ecosystem in 2024 and beyond.

In the battle against climate change, combating food waste is not just a choice—it’s a necessity. Let’s turn our food surplus into a powerful force for environmental good.