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War on Food Waste

I’m not usually impressed by all the wars being waged in the world. But here’s one I can get behind. This week there was, in fact, very good news on the food recovery front, as reported in the New York Times Green blog. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is joining the fight to prevent perfectly good food from winding up in the landfill. The GMA is made up of food, beverage and packaging companies and is working in partnership with the Food Marketing Institute on the initiative.

In the US, more than thirty million tons of food was dumped into landfills in 2009, making up the largest piece of the waste pie. That’s 200 pounds a year for every US citizen. Much of that food is still perfectly edible and the GMA hopes to redirect some of it to food banks. The article cites a 1997 study that claims that ten million people could be fed just by recovering one fifth of that food. Both Portland and Seattle have focused efforts on food recovery and there is a network of  Shared Harvest groups throughout Canada and the US that attempt to recover some of the food. Right here in Metro Vancouver, Quest Outreach Society, a food recovery group, estimates that they are only recovering about one percent of the available food. Clearly a lot more needs to be done. This is the paragraph in the article that really stood out for me:

“The lack of progress in redirecting food waste from landfills has persisted as something of an anomaly over the last two decades. While overall recycling rates, including the composting of yard trimmings, has risen by 10 percent since 1990, the amount of food composted or redirected from landfills has decreased. Today, only 2 percent of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled; by contrast, 62 percent of paper is recycled.”

As a first step, the GMA brought stakeholders together, including their own food industry members, representatives from waste management and food banks. One idea on the drawing table is to locate food processors, retailers and restaurants closer together so that food recovery and composting efforts can be coordinated. That sounds an awful lot like a food hub. Or, in this case, should we call it a food industrial park?

 

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