The issue of food waste is a hot topic these days. Everyone from the Food Network to the Environmental Protection Agency is talking about it and trying to get people thinking about the fact that throwing away food really is a waste. Here at IATP, where we strive to ensure fair and sustainable systems, we can’t overlook the ways in which throwing away food is neither fair nor sustainable for people or the planet.
I recently had a chance to attend the 26th Annual BioCycle West Coast Conference in Portland, Oregon. The conference brings together experts and leaders on compost, anaerobic digestion, bioplastics, biogas and organic waste management to discuss science, regulation, innovation and a whole gamut of related issues. Focused not only on identifying the problems, the BioCycle gathering strives to challenge conventional thinking about how we use resources, and offer solutions which make our communities more sustainable, while providing economic opportunities for business.
One of the most widely shared opinions among attendees is that we must make the idea of “organic waste” an oxymoron. Dennis McLerran, US EPA Region 10, reminded us in his keynote that approximately 40 percent of the food we produce in the United States ends up wasted, and that only 3 percent is recovered for compost. While we obviously need to address front-end ways to prevent waste in the first place, we cannot keep thinking of food, or any organic materials for that matter, as waste. As one speaker put it, we’ve got to adopt a “waste-to-worth” attitude.