The WSU Food Systems Program is working to optimize energy efficiency and waste management along the entire food supply chain by tightening production and consumption loops, encouraging holistic use of all plant and animal parts, coordinating with food networks, and other strategies as appropriate.
Estimates have suggested that across the U.S., 40% of food that is produced is not consumed.1 The disposal of uneaten food represents a lost resource that consumed water land, energy, and nutrients while it was being produced. This uneaten food could feed people or animals, a particular opportunity given the 12.7% of American households who experience food insecurity.2 Meanwhile, while some organic yard wastes and food wastes are diverted to composting, organics still represent 28.5% of the municipal solid waste stream in Washington State.3 When organic “waste” materials are disposed of in landfills and wastewater treatment plants, they create a range of negative environmental impacts: they use landfill space, produce greenhouse gases, and release nutrients.
Optimize energy efficiency and waste management along the entire food supply chain by tightening production and consumption loops, encouraging holistic use of all plant and animal parts, coordinating with food networks, and other strategies as appropriate.
A range of strategies could help enhance sustainability of waste management. Useable food wastes can be diverted for human and animal consumption so they don’t enter the waste stream. Non-consumable organics can be recovered and used for composting, anaerobic digestion, pyrolysis or other waste conversion processes that can support new industries, generate renewable energy, and produce other marketable products. If organic products are processed and land-applied, benefits also include improved soil health, reduced fertilizer use, and increased soil carbon sequestration.
1Gunders, D. 2012. Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill (pdf). NRDC Issue Paper. IP: 12-06-B.
2 USDA ERS 2017. Food Security in the U.S: Key Statistics and Graphics. Calculated by ERS, USDA, using data from the December 2015 Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement.
3 Washington Department of Ecology and Cascadia Consulting. 2016. 2015-2016 Washington Statewide Waste Characterization Study (pdf). Publication No. 16-07-032.