Washington leaders are spending time this April focusing on reducing food waste. Earlier this month the USDA, EPA and FDA announced plans to address the issue during a gathering at EPA’s headquarters. In the U.S., more than one-third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste. Food is the single largest type of waste in our daily trash.
The administration is working to join other corporate and business leaders who have made a public commitment to reducing food loss and waste in their U.S. operations by 50 percent by the year 2030. “Keeping excess food out of landfills not only helps the environment but it can also be used to feed people, animals or create energy,” says EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Keeping food out of landfills also creates jobs and we estimate that roughly 50,000 are supported by food reuse, recycling and recovering operations in the United States.”
The plan includes six key action areas including increasing communication around food safety and food labels. Food waste is not just a U.S. problem but rather a global issue. Even public entities in Australia are focusing on finding a use for the food that does end up in the trash.
At a facility located North of Melbourne from the outside, it looks like any other waste facility while inside, trucks are dropping off another delivery of food scraps. “What we’re basically doing here is converting food waste to renewable energy using the gas that’s produced when you starve the waste of oxygen,” says Pat McCafferty the Yarra Valley Water Managing Director. “So, it just works exactly like a stomach.”
In this artificial digestive system, food is chewed up and turned into a brown liquefied pulp. “We start to feed the digested material through the array of pipe works here and that pumps it out into our main digester tanks,” says Damien Bassett, Waste to Energy Manager at Yarra Valley Water. “At that point there, that’s when the biology starts working into the material, which produces the biogas that we use.”
The plant can process 33,000 tons of waste a year, creating enough energy to power nearly 750,000 homes.