New Roadmap Outlines Solutions to Cut Food Waste, with Benefits that Go Beyond the Table

Annie Lemelin

In the U.S., a staggering 63 million tons of perfectly good food goes to waste every year. Food waste occurs throughout the food production and consumption chain, but most food waste comes from consumers and food service industries. This wasted food bypasses millions of hungry people and ends up decomposing in landfills, releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas – making food waste a serious problem for us all.

CLF has been working to raise awareness of this issue and address food waste in New England, in part through our work on the Massachusetts Food System Plan, a report outlining goals and recommendations for strengthening Massachusetts’ local food system. CLF has also supported new laws in several states requiring the reuse of food scraps for purposes such as compost, animal feed, or as a source of energy through anaerobic digestion.

Despite the known harmful impacts of all that wasted food, to date no comprehensive, multifaceted plan to tackle this important issue on a national scale has been proposed. Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data (“ReFED”) recently published a new report to fill this gap: A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste By 20 Percent. The Roadmap’s recommendations parallel and complement food waste solutions supported by CLF in the Massachusetts Food System Plan and state legislation.

The ReFED Roadmap delves into the complex issues of why so much food goes to waste and identifies the most cost-effective solutions to reduce this waste across the nation. The report also defines research priorities, and offers incentives for actions that consumers (all of us), government, and companies can each take.

The Roadmap outlines an ambitious plan whereby an $18 billion investment in 27 solutions to reduce food waste will yield $100 billion in societal and economic value. Specifically, the Roadmap proposes preventative, legislative, and investment mechanisms to curb food waste all while providing economic, societal, and environmental benefits. Implementing the Roadmap is projected to double recovered food donations to nonprofits, reduce water use by 1.6 trillion gallons per year, and avoid nearly 18 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

From proposing standardized date labelling and packaging adjustments to food recovery and centralized composting, the Roadmap provides a detailed outline for necessary future steps at a national scale. The full report is available here.

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