One-fourth of what’s thrown into the garbage in Massachusetts is food, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP); that’s the largest portion of the waste stream. The state’s landfills are nearing capacity. And as food rots in those dumps, it generates methane — a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
At the same time we toss out so much food, an estimated 616,000 people in the state (about one in 11) are food insecure, according to the Greater Boston Food Bank. “We have kind of these ironic twin problems of food waste and food insecurity at the same time,” says John Fischer, DEP’s chief of commercial waste reduction.
In 2014, the agency imposed a commercial food waste disposal ban. Only four other states have similar bans. The regulation says any enterprise that generates one ton or more of food waste a week can’t put all of that food in the garbage. The ban affects an estimated 1,700 places, according to the state — from hospitals to food manufacturers. Those places are doing a range of things to keep food from going in the garbage.
Prioritizing Food Donation
The produce section of Roche Bros. in West Roxbury is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. Gleaming ruby apples, bell peppers and plump potatoes are stacked high. There are cases filled with containers of berries and cut melons.
Every day, workers scour the store and pluck out whatever food is about to turn bad or expire. They take perishables to the store’s kitchen, where chefs use them in prepared dishes the market sells.
Anything the chefs don’t use takes another route to people who can eat it. Five days a week, a truck from Lovin’ Spoonfuls arrives at the store. The nonprofit food rescue organization collects edible unsold food and takes it to places that will serve it to people in need — in this case, shelters and addiction treatment centers.