The Bulletin Board

Legislation aims to reduce amount of food waste that ends up in landfills

By: - July 21, 2021 3:54 pm
Cardboard recycling at a landfill

By weight, food waste is the top item entering landfills in the United States. (Justin Sullivan | Getty Images)

Two bills introduced to both the U.S. House and Senate last Friday aim to help tackle climate change by reducing food waste.

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, was one of the lawmakers to introduce the legislation.

Climate change and food waste are connected because discarded food sent to landfills adds to greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste is a significant problem in the United States, with nearly half the food that’s produced either lost or wasted – or $408 billion worth.

New Hampshire doesn’t have any laws banning organic waste in landfills. Similarly, recycling laws in the state have no bearing on food waste, according to Policy Finder.

The Zero Food Waste Act would create a new grant program for planning, measurement, and reduction that could fund various projects that aim to better understand food waste and curtail it. The Cultivating Organic Matter through the Promotion of Sustainable Techniques (COMPOST) Act would make composting a conservation practice, so both producing and using compost would count as conservation practices per the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s significant because it means compost programs, like building needed infrastructure to enable composting, would be eligible for federal grants and loans.

Kuster said eliminating agriculture emissions and addressing hunger are top priorities. Food insecurity rates in New Hampshire and across the country have risen dramatically during the pandemic.

“Two ways to help us reach those goals are maximizing the amount of food that gets eaten, and when food must be thrown away, ensuring it is composted to enhance soil health,” Kuster said in a written statement.

By weight, food waste is the top item entering landfills in the United States, and landfills are the third biggest source of methane emissions nationally. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. In the short term, it’s much worse than carbon emissions.  

“When food is wasted, the same amount of greenhouse gases is generated as from 58 million cars a year,” according to Yvette Cabrera, director of food waste at the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the organizations endorsing the legislation.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.