The EPA recently unveiled two reports aimed at lowering the level of food waste and better managing existing food waste disposal.
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released two new reports quantifying methane emissions from landfilled food waste and updating recommendations for managing wasted food. Over one-third of the food produced in the United States is never eaten, wasting the resources used to produce, transport, process, and distribute it – and much of it is sent to landfills, where it breaks down and generates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
The reports’ findings emphasize the importance of both reducing the amount of food that is wasted and managing its disposal in more environmentally friendly ways. Based on these findings, EPA is releasing an update to its Food Recovery Hierarchy, a tool to help decision-makers, such as state and local governments, understand the best options for managing food waste in terms of environmental impacts. The release of the new ranking – called the Wasted Food Scale – marks the first update since the 1990s, reflecting more recent technological advances and changes in operational practices. EPA’s research confirms that preventing food from being wasted in the first place, or source reduction, is still the most environmentally beneficial approach. Evidence in these reports suggests that efforts should focus on ensuring less food is wasted so that food waste is diverted from landfills, which will reduce environmental impacts.
The new EPA reports include:
- “From Field to Bin: The Environmental Impacts of U.S. Food Waste Management Pathways,” which examines the environmental impacts of disposing of food waste. This report synthesizes the latest science on the environmental impacts of how food waste is commonly managed in the U.S. This report completes the analysis that began in the 2021 companion report, “From Farm to Kitchen: The Environmental Impacts of U.S. Food Waste ,” which analyzed the environmental footprint of food waste in the farm to consumer supply chain.
- “Quantifying Methane Emissions from Landfilled Food Waste,” represents the first time EPA has published modeled estimates of annual methane emissions released into the atmosphere from landfilled food waste. More food reaches MSW landfills than any other material, but its contribution to landfill methane emissions has not been previously quantified.