How Does Your City Handle Food Waste?

Food waste is a huge problem all over the world — to the extent that we should be attacking it from all angles. That means individuals, cities and food producers need to come together to find ways to waste less. (Want to know what you can do as an individual? We’ve got three strategies to waste less food.)

A recently released study from SaveOnEnergy, an online marketplace that helps residential and commercial energy consumers shop for electricity and natural gas supply, found that only nine of the top 25 most populated cities in the U.S. have mandated food waste reduction programs in place. Although such programs aren’t an instant cure to reducing food waste, they do help encourage food waste to be composted instead of being sent to a landfill. This can also be the first step in separating and identifying surplus food, thus encouraging innovation and creativity.

How’s your city doing? See the map here:

Infographic: SaveOnEnergy
Infographic: SaveOnEnergy

California requires all businesses to recycle their organic waste, and Austin’s large restaurants must separate compostable waste from other waste.

There are other programs out there, too, with the goal of helping keep food out of landfills. Food for Free, for example, rescues healthy food from universities and corporate partners and supplies emergency food programs. Much of the food would otherwise have been composted. Thus, the program is moving the surplus food up the food recovery hierarchy to find higher uses.

The odd irony of the food waste predicament is that 1 in 7 Americans lacks food security and 795 million people across the globe go hungry each day, yet 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year globally. Energy, water, packaging and pesticides are consumed to produce food that is discarded, causing deforestation, contamination of soils and air pollution.

Learn more about SaveOnEnergy’s study in our story “See Just How Much Food You — Yes, You — Are Wasting.”

Do the cities with and without mandated food waste programs surprise you? Let us know in the comments.

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.