California Is Known For A Lot Of Things

The Lempert Report
January 31, 2019

The Winter Fancy Food Show, leading Climate Change and now Food Waste

According to a report on Civil eats, California’s innovate programs and laws to tackle excess food and reduce greenhouse gas emissions could be a template for the nation.

Los Angeles County sanitation planners see far more than a waste-disposal problem—they see a resource.They are using anaerobic digesters that will blend food waste with household sewage and use it to brew biogas, manufactured methane suitable for use in running a county wastewater plant. 

Eventually, the LA officials hope to generate enough of the gas to fuel their waste-hauling trucks as well.

Disposing of food waste in ways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a very big—and very expensive—challenge. CA state legislators have developed rigorous new waste-disposal legislation which passed in 2016 and mandates a 50 percent reduction in organic, or food waste disposal by 2020 and a 75 percent reduction by 2025. 

Currently, the state has some 25 composting yards that accept food waste and 14 anaerobic digesters.    

One contributor to the food-to-energy project is the University of California campus in Irvine that reports participating in the anaerobic digester program has transformed the school’s approach to buying food and disposing of waste.

U.C. Irvine sends some 900 tons of food scraps to the digester each year, and is also working to reduce the volume of scraps thrown away. “If it’s trimmings from a cantaloupe or pineapple, that’s normal,” she says. “But let’s say we’re throwing away a lot of rotten tomatoes—that might mean either we over-ordered or our supplier isn’t a good supplier. [And] if we find we’re throwing away a lot of lasagna, maybe we made too much, or the students didn’t like it. By tracking things like that, we’re reducing our waste.”

Most of America continues to send its table scraps to the dump. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s most recent findings show that Americans sent nearly 138 million tons of waste to landfills in 2015. Of that, about 22 percent was food.