The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery is supporting Food Waste Prevention Week to raise awareness about the environmental and economic costs of food waste and help Californians reduce the amount of food that ends up in the trash.
Unused food results in unnecessary expenses for everyone. On average, a family of four spends about $1,500 more per year on food than necessary, because of the amount they throw out. Money spent along the food production chain, including the cost of energy, water, fertilizer, harvesting, production, storage, and transportation, also is wasted. In all, Californians throw away almost 12 billion pounds of food each year. That amounts to 18 percent of all the material that goes to landfills in the state.
Unfortunately, in a state where one of eight people are food insecure, food is the largest single component of our disposal stream.
This week, Californians are encouraged to take some simple actions to prevent food waste.
Plan your meals for the week before you go shopping and buy only the items needed to prepare those meals. By making a shopping list with weekly meals in mind, you can save money and prevent food waste.
Look in your refrigerator and cupboards first to avoid buying food you already have. Make a list each week and plan upcoming meals around that food.
Freeze food such as bread, sliced fruit, meat or other items that can spoil quickly. Freezing food is one of the most effective methods for preserving food at home.
When preparing meals, use the edible parts of food that you normally do not eat. For example, beet tops can be sautéed for a delicious side dish, and vegetable scraps can be made into stock.
Learn the difference between “sell-by, “use by,” “best-by,” and other expiration date labels to prevent wholesome food from being disposed.
There are many other simple, effective strategies to help reduce food waste at home. These changes can reduce more than 20 pounds of food waste per person, per month – and they can reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions and combat global climate change. When sent to landfills, food and other organic waste decomposes and generates methane, a super pollutant with a heat-trapping effect at least 86 times greater than carbon dioxide.
To help further educate the public about food waste, CalRecycle, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research are joining forces with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ad Council on a food waste reduction campaign known as Savethefood.com. The campaign offers tips on storing leftover food, understanding “sell by” dates, wasting less food with kids, shopping efficiently, and reviving droopy produce. The UglyFruitAndVeg Campaign encourages people to use imperfect-looking produce to prevent nutritious fruits and vegetables from becoming waste.
Food waste prevention is key to achieving the state’s 75 percent recycling goal and reducing waste in landfills. Additionally, food waste prevention is critical to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the disposal of organic waste by 2020 and a 75 percent reduction by 2025, as required in SB 1383.
As part of California’s comprehensive strategy to combat climate change, CalRecycle awarded $9.4 million in January to 31 projects that will decrease the amount of food waste landfilled in California and increase the state’s capacity to collect, transport, store, and distribute more food to Californians in need.
For more information on the grants, see CalRecycle’s Food Waste Prevention and Rescue Grant Program webpage. For more on how to reduce food waste at home – both for Food Waste Prevention Week and as a new, permanent approach to food management – see Savethefood.com.