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These 3 states are leaders in food waste prevention policy

Allison Martin, Hazel Technologies
May 5, 2016 3:01 pm CST

In February 2016, France passed a revolutionary food waste law. The new law, says The Guardian, forbids supermarkets from destroying or throwing away its food waste and compelling them to donate unsold food to local charities and food banks. Supermarkets will also be barred from spoiling food already in the stores’ garbage bins, which was a common practice to keep people out of those bins.

Food waste is a huge problem all around the world

Food waste is a huge problem all around the world

Food waste is a major problem in Europe, but it’s also a problem here. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Center, 31 percent of the 133 billion pounds of food available for consumption in the U.S. at the retail and consumer levels went uneaten in 2010. One third of that loss occurred in supermarkets and grocery stores.

No similar law exists in the U.S. right now, but some states are looking for solutions to the food waste problem. Check out some of the cool ways these state agencies and cities are cutting food waste and ending hunger.

In 2014, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection created a new ban on commercial food waste. Any institution – businesses, schools, colleges, hospitals, grocery stores – that produces more than a ton of food waste per month can no longer throw that waste in a landfill.

The bill works in two ways. First, it reduces the amount of waste taken to landfills each month. It also encourages these stores and businesses to be more thoughtful about what they buy and how they store their products. Rather than guessing how much produce a school might need, for example, school officials spend more time calculating their produce needs to avoid wasting food and throwing it out. In the end, it saves them money.

So where is that waste going? Some of it is brought to farms where farmers can use it either in their fields or even as feed for some of its livestock. Some of it also goes to a company called City Soil, a composting site in Boston that turns organic waste into usable soil.

New York City
The Big Apple itself is trying to keep food from going rotten. In 2013, the city passed a major ordinance that would help reduce the amount of organic waste – food, yard waste and paper products according to Politico New York – that goes into landfills.

Last July, the bill finally took effect, making it mandatory for all hotels with more than 150 rooms, stadiums that seat at least 15,000 people and food wholesalers with 20,000 square feet to recycle their organic waste. Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden, the Barclays Center and many other major venues had to rethink their food waste plans.

Part of the wait in fully enacting the bill comes from being able to meet its demands. These venues needed time to organize themselves and come up with a way to comply with the new law – no easy feat for some of these enormous venues.

Having companies ready to take on the additional waste takes time. This process is only the first part of the overall bill. If the city is able to meet the processing capacity, then it will be able to expand the program t smaller businesses, restaurants and maybe even homes and apartment complexes.

San Francisco, California
Widely believed to be the harshest – as well as the first of its kind – ban on food waste in the U.S., San Francisco’s food waste ban passed in 2009 to great acclaim. The law forbids residents from throwing food scraps away in a regular garbage can. Instead, it must be thrown in a separate waste bin, which the city then picks up.

The food waste, also called wet garbage, includes any produce that has gone bad. Once thrown out, the city’s contract companies such as Organic Annex, turn the waste into compost. Farms and vineyards around the Bay Area can then buy the compost to use in their fields.

The law tremendously cut down on the amount of waste in the city, and it hoped to be zero waste – that means zero garbage going to landfills – by 2020. In April 2009, Seattle passed a similar law, but it only applied to residents. San Francisco’s ban applies to residents as well as apartment complexes, restaurants and other businesses.

France’s new law helps put an end to food waste in supermarkets, but food waste also occurs when produce is shipped. In fact, a large percent of produce spoils before it even hits the shelves. Still, this law represents a step in the right direction to end both food waste and hunger.

Right now, campaigners who supported France’s new law are working to persuade other members in the European Union to adopt their own versions of this law. If they succeed, do you think the U.S. will be next? Share your thoughts with us!

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