California Law Aims to Significantly Cut Food Waste

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by | Jan 4, 2022

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California businesses must address food waste as the result of a new state law that went into effect at the start of the year.

The law, Senate Bill 1383, aims to cut organic waste from being thrown in the trash and thus put in landfills, which will in turn lower methane emissions. The law requires businesses to implement programs to so that organic materials are no longer thrown away, with edible food being donated and the rest sorted for organic waste recycling.

The Solana Center for Environmental Innovation says in San Diego alone the actions included in the law could cut up to 127,000 metric tons of emissions a year and save businesses $20 million in disposal fees. It would also free up 700,000 tons of landfill space annually.

The goal with SB 1383, which was first passed in 2016, is to cut organic waste by 75% by 2025. The legislation also requires businesses such as grocery stores, restaurants and food distributors to donate 20% of food that would have otherwise been thrown away to food recovery organizations by that time.

The law calls for local jurisdictions to provide ways for businesses and residences to recycle the materials, such as providing collection containers and providing outside programs. Regulated organizations are also required to keep records on their efforts.

The California law is setting up ways to recycle and reuse the waste such as sending it to anaerobic digestion facilities that can create biofuel and electricity. With a similar action, in 2021 the United States Department of Energy awarded several grants to help turn food waste into biofuels or plastics.

Food waste is a significant contributor to the world’s emissions. A report by S&P Global Ratings found that food waste contributes up to 10% of emissions and nearly $1 trillion worth of food is wasted each year.

Cutting food waste is also part of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, which aims to cut food waste by half by 2030. The Environmental Protection Agency has also aligned the US with those goals.

Businesses play a large role in the effort, and in the US companies like restaurants and hotels are said to make up about 40% of the country’s waste. That has led to the hospitality industry, for example, to use tools to track and tackle the waste.

Amazon recently took another approach by developing recyclable cold storage grocery packaging in an effort to cut down on food that could spoil through delivery practices.

Despite the lengthy planning of the new law in California, the roll out of plans and recycling systems is still taking place in many areas, according to several news reports. The NBC affiliate in Los Angeles reported that it could take until August before all the entities involved establish plans to make the recycling effort an every-day occurrence.

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