Food Waste in Massachusetts
At least 40% of food in the US is wasted (NRDC). In Massachusetts, more than a million tons of food waste was disposed of in the trash in 2016, representing a quarter of the waste stream (MassDEP). At the same time, more than 650,000 Massachusetts residents are food insecure, making the disposal of edible food a missed opportunity to better synthesize and strengthen multiple sectors of the food system (Feeding America). Food waste poses an environmental hazard as well, as discarded organic materials in landfills create methane, a greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change. And landfilling or incinerating food waste is expensive for municipalities and has public health and environmental impacts.
In 2014, Massachusetts implemented the Commercial Food Waste Disposal Ban for facilities that dispose of one ton or more food waste per week. MassDEP reported that in 2018, 278,000 tons of food waste was diverted, a large increase over the 110,000 tons diverted in 2014. But there is more work to be done to reduce food waste in Massachusetts.
Reducing Food Waste in Massachusetts: Local Successes Informing Statewide Solutions
The Collaborative has published a new report, Reducing Food Waste in Massachusetts: Local Successes Informing Statewide Solutions. The report provides an overview of what is happening around the state to reduce food waste as well as recommendations on what else is needed. The report begins with an overview of state agencies’ grants, technical assistance, and regulations that impact food waste reduction and diversion. Case studies highlight the innovative work of businesses and nonprofits to reduce the amount of waste they create, upcycling food, and strengthening gleaning and food rescue. The report also includes entities that are using food waste for animal feed, collecting food waste, processing compost, depackaging food, or putting food waste into anaerobic digestors. Schools that are doing food rescue and separating food waste are highlighted as are municipalities that are supporting composting through curbside collection, food scrap drop off, and backyard composting support. Finally, there are recommendations regarding legislative and regulatory changes and statewide support that is needed. Recommendations also target actions that municipalities, schools, businesses, nonprofits, and individuals can take to reduce food waste in Massachusetts.
Currently, the Collaborative is tracking five bills in the 2019-20 Legislative session related to food waste. These bills would increase financial incentives for farms and stores that donate food to organizations that serve low income people; increase liability protection for those donors; and clarify the date labels found on food to reduce confusion for consumers which often results in food being disposed of unnecessarily. The Collaborative has written white papers, attended hearings, and submitted comments in an effort to help pass and strengthen these bills.
The Collaborative is also working to support lowering the threshold of the Commercial Food Material Disposal Ban from those businesses that produce one ton of organic waste material per week to include those that produce up to half a ton per week through attending meetings and submitting letters. The Collaborative has also provided comments on the draft Massachusetts 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan regarding how the state can increase food waste reduction in Massachusetts.
The Collaborative worked with stakeholder organizations from many sectors of the food system to gather feedback on what policies would most effectively reduce food waste. Proposed legislative changes include measures that would increase financial incentives and civil liability protection for people, businesses and organizations that donate food; standardize date labeling on food; and reduce food waste in schools. The Collaborative presented a proposal for a comprehensive package that would address key issues identified in the Plan at a briefing at the Massachusetts State House on July 26, 2017. At least 12 bills pertaining to food waste were filed in the 2017-18 Legislative session.
For more information, please contact Brittany Peats at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617 863 6865.