10 min read
In the pursuit of global sustainability, the issue of food waste stands as a pivotal challenge demanding urgent attention. With 2023 the hottest year on record to date, our collective efforts to reduce carbon emissions in 2024 are critical. Reducing food waste to landfills, a major emitter of GHGs, is a key initiative in the fight against climate change.
Back in 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released an eye-opening report titled "Global Food Losses and Food Waste." The report concluded that roughly one-third of the world's food was being squandered annually, totaling a staggering 1.3 billion tons valued at nearly one trillion US dollars.
This issue isn't just financially taxing—it's environmentally costly too. Food waste is responsible for approximately 8-10% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If categorized as a nation, food loss and waste would rank as the third largest emitter of GHGs worldwide, trailing only China and the US. With a carbon footprint of about 3.3 billion tons of CO2, food waste is a major contributor to climate change. This report looks holistically at the current landscape, pivotal advancements, and future trajectories for food waste reduction and management. The report takes into consideration collaborative endeavors undertaken by governments, businesses, and organizations worldwide to address the environmental, social, and economic impact of food waste.
1. US Government Outlook
Government Recommended Strategies
The EPA's new Wasted Food Scale, which was first shared in October 2023, marks a significant shift in how the United States addresses food waste. This scale depicts a prioritized, structured approach to first reduce food waste, followed by food waste upcycling including anaerobic digestion and composting. The new scale specifies the value of energy recovery and the application of nutrient-rich digestate generated through anaerobic digestion useful for sustainable food waste management practices. Building a strategy for the energy and digestate use is a key part of Chomp’s onboarding process for new customers to lower utility costs and reduce reliance on fossil fuels while also improving soil health.
Food Waste Management Tax Incentives
Tax incentives continue to encourage companies to implement efficient practices and invest in technologies that mitigate food waste across the supply chain such as on-site anaerobic digestion, which is eligible for tax incentives that return between 30-50% of the total unit cost until the end of December 2024. Learn more about tax incentives.
More and more states and municipalities are enacting Organic Waste Bans. These bans prohibit large waste generators like supermarkets, restaurants, and other institutions from discarding organic waste into landfills, encouraging diversion toward composting and anaerobic digestion to convert wasted food into valuable resources.
2. US Businesses Outlook
Explore Food Waste Solutions
Prevention Businesses: Organizations like HowGood, The Farmlink Project and the Center for EcoTechnology are leading the charge in preventing food waste by assessing and improving the sustainability of products and supply chains. Their tools empower consumers, farmers and businesses to make informed choices, reducing waste at the source.Food Waste Solutions Capital Tracker $10.8 billion has been invested in food waste solutions over the last 11 years, including $1.21 billion invested YTD.
Food Waste Solutions Capital Tracker: $10.8 billion has been invested in food waste solutions over the last 11 years, including $1.21 billion invested YTD.
Food Waste Recycling Businesses: On-site anaerobic digestion solutions, such as the ones we produce at Chomp, offer a decentralized approach to converting food waste into renewable energy and biofertilizers. Such systems efficiently manage organic waste, reducing methane emissions from landfills while lowering our reliance on fossil fuels and also returning many benefits to the producer of the food waste.
Composting Businesses: The landscape for composting businesses is expanding. Companies like Compost Now are pioneering innovative composting solutions by providing custom impact reports while creating value from food scraps and organic materials, which contribute to soil health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Global Food Waste Outlook
Food waste is an issue around the world and was a focus in the global climate agenda at the recent COP28 in Dubai. Discussions and commitments highlighted the intersection between food waste reduction and carbon emissions. The event emphasized the need for international collaboration to tackle this pressing issue.
Some exciting takeaways include:
- 134 countries agree to include food in climate action plans: Some of the world’s largest food producing nations signed a declaration to transform agriculture and food systems as part of their plans to tackle climate change. According to Pledging countries, they have agreed to work together to scale adaptation and resilience efforts for farmers, in addition to taking more action to transform production practices to address soil health, food waste and biodiversity loss.
- The US government has joined a UN effort to encourage the use of renewable energy at all times of the day: "The US government's commitment to 24/7 carbon-pollution free electricity for federal operations is creating good-paying jobs for American workers and healthier air for communities," the federal chief sustainability officer with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Andrew Mayock, said at the UN Cop 28 climate talks in Dubai. Anaerobic digestion technology is an optimal and reliable solution to provide 24/7 renewable energy when sources like solar and wind power are intermittent.
- In a first, delegates at UN climate talks agree to transition away from planet-warming fossil fuels: Nearly 200 countries agreed Wednesday to move away from planet-warming fossil fuels — the first time they’ve made that crucial pledge in decades of U.N. climate talks, though many warned the deal still had significant shortcomings.
- Achieving SDG2 without breaching the 1.5C threshold: A Global Roadmap: As stated in this roadmap, “By 2030 we must reduce by 50 percent per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels. By 2050 all food loss and waste will be integrated in a circular bioeconomy and used for feed, soil enhancement or bioenergy production.”
In 2024, the fight against food waste intensifies, with governments, businesses, and global initiatives driving innovation and collaboration. Continued efforts in prevention, recycling, and composting are crucial in curbing food waste's environmental impact and advancing sustainable practices worldwide.
The coming year will hopefully mark a paradigm shift for food waste management, ripe with promising advancements and opportunities. Anaerobic digestion has been around for hundreds of years, but 2024 marks a tipping point for on-site anaerobic digestion with tax incentives and food waste regulations ramping up, helping to put this exciting technology into the hands of organizations at the forefront of sustainable waste solutions. Its decentralized approach to converting organic waste into renewable energy and biofertilizers provides a sustainable and cost-efficient method for managing food waste.
Furthermore, the landscape of food waste prevention and recycling solutions is set to witness growth in 2024 as countries work to meet COP28 emission goals. As we move forward, organizations will continue to expand the adoption of food waste prevention strategies while also growing their investment in innovative solutions to manage unavoidable organic waste. Businesses that offer food waste upcycling solutions such as on-site anaerobic digestion and composting solutions will transform waste into valuable materials and lower overall emissions generated from organic waste.
We are hopeful that 2024 will in fact be a pivotal year in the ongoing battle against food waste. The proliferation of sustainable food waste management solutions such as anaerobic digestion, coupled with the proactive measures in prevention and recycling, signals a transformative phase in how we perceive and manage wasted food. The projected growth of these solutions not only aligns with environmental imperatives but also holds the promise of fostering a more resilient, resource-efficient, and sustainable future for generations to come.
Learn how Chomp can help you achieve 2024 ESG goals with on-site anaerobic digestion. Contact us now.