Reduce Food Waste to Reduce Climate Change

By Maggie Gainer

The connection between reducing the food we waste and global warming is not yet commonly understood. Methane emissions resulting from the decomposition of landfilled organic waste are a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions contributing to global climate change. Organic materials — including waste that can be readily prevented, recycled, or composted — account for 30-40% of the waste disposed of in most regions of the U.S.  

Organic waste is the largest waste stream in California and on the Redwood Coast. At 23 million tons per year, food and organic waste are by far the largest material type landfilled annually in California.   

In September 2016, California SB 1383 was signed into law to establish methane emissions reduction targets. SB1383 addresses one of five key climate change strategy pillars necessary to meet California’s target to reduce GHG emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

SB1838 sets forth ambitious new rules for food waste reduction, with a target of 75% reduction by 2025.  Since the passage of this new law, a round of public hearings contributed to drafting detailed regulations for its implementation. It will require significant restructuring of our waste management system to expand organic waste collection to homes and businesses. 

Vermicomposting bucket (composting with worms.) Photo credit_ Mizzou CAFNR, Creative Commons, Flikr

CalRecycle, the state agency responsible for developing SB1383 regulations, is urging all local governments, food-related businesses, and individuals to plan now for its implementation and required record keeping for accountability.  Programs must be in place by January 1, 2022, when enforcement begins. Penalties have been planned for noncompliance.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impact on our economy will affect funding for food waste reduction systems and SB1383 compliance. It is uncertain at this time if loss of funding due to the COVID-19 will be included in the “extraordinary circumstances,” that allow for postponing the dates set for implementation and reporting progress.  Zero Waste Humboldt will monitor how this will impact Humboldt County’s businesses and jurisdictions.

Contact or your local government to learn more.

In the meantime, reducing food waste is one of the most cost-effective strategies for each of us — as individuals at home, and for business and industry — to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.