To lessen the amount of household garbage he sends to landfills, California resident Richard Redmond brings a gallon-sized container of food scraps to the South Pasadena farmers market every Thursday. There, it is gathered and composted for use in gardens.
The site designer, who is in his 60s, added, "It's wonderful." You can see how sorting it just cuts down on the quantity of trash you throw out.
There aren't enough people supporting Redmond, whose experience is only a little window into a massive worldwide issue.
According to United Nations, the world discards about 931 million tonnes of food per year, the majority of which ends up in landfills where it decomposes and creates about a tenth of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions.
That represents a significant obstacle for nations participating in the COP27 climate meeting currently taking place in Egypt. Few countries are on track to achieve their 2015 commitment to reduce food waste by half by 2030, according to United Nations officials, sustainability watchdogs, and governments contacted by Reuters.
Rosa Rolle, team leader for food loss and waste at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said, "Eight years to go and we are nowhere near attaining that goal."
According to independent figures that their governments do not dispute, of the top five biggest food wasters per capita, at least three - the United States, Australia, and New Zealand - have increased their food waste since 2015. There was no trustworthy information available for the other two, Canada and Ireland.
Richer nations are not the only ones with this issue. According to UN research from the previous year, there is a "negligible" association between household food waste and GDP, meaning most nations "have the opportunity to improve."
According to experts, the poor performance is a result of a lack of public funding and clear rules to address issues including food deterioration in trucks and warehouses, wasteful consumer behaviors, and misunderstandings regarding expiration and sell-by dates.
The problem is complicated by a lack of transparency. Due to shaky country-level estimates, when the U.N. General Assembly established the 2015 food waste objective, it did not create a precise standard by which to gauge progress.
According to Rolle, on November 16 U.N. organizations and nonprofits present at COP27 would encourage states to update their commitments and provide progress reports for the meeting in Dubai the following year.
According to a 2020 study by academics in Switzerland and India, the average American wastes more than 700 calories of food per day, or roughly one-third of the daily allowance. This makes America's advancement an essential benchmark for other countries.
The nation is not yet a shining example. According to ReFED, a waste reduction organization that closely collaborates with the U.S. government, the amount of food wasted in the United States increased by 12% between 2010 and 2016 and then leveled out.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's liaison for food waste, Jean Buzby, indicated that there was still a long way to go before reaching the target.
The issue is exacerbated by a lack of federal leadership.
In 2018, the USDA, the EPA, and the Food and Drug Administration decided to work together to reduce food waste in the United States. The effort has since received little funding, according to Dana Gunders, executive director of ReFED.
According to Reuters, the USDA and FDA each have just one full-time employee who is responsible for reducing food waste. EPA refused to provide a figure, stating that the job was split across numerous offices.
According to Gunders, "What true concentration on this topic would look like would be for each of these agencies to allocate people, to give those staff resources to execute things."
According to the USDA and EPA, spending on projects to reduce food waste is not tracked. Regarding its expenses, the FDA made no comments.
The agencies are currently reliant on assistance from the private sector. As part of a voluntary USDA and EPA program that was started in 2016, 47 businesses, including food retailer Ahold Delhaize and processor General Mills, have committed to halving their food waste by the year 2030.
About 15 of the businesses have posted updates on their websites demonstrating waste reduction. Neither the EPA nor the USDA checks their development.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, just five states have regulations enacted at the state level to prevent food from ending up in landfills. They are California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Only two of those are deemed good policies by ReFED because they protect the majority of businesses and people.
Even setting a baseline to gauge progress has taken a long time for the other top five wasters.
According to a study by the research firm Katar, New Zealand families threw out 13.4% more food in 2022 than they did in 2021 (8.6% of all food consumed). According to a spokesman for New Zealand's environment ministry, the nation is putting the finishing touches on its baseline estimate of food waste so that it may set a goal.
Officials in California, which has the most aggressive climate policies in the country, are working to ensure that food waste is composted rather than dumped. But it's difficult.
Because the decomposition takes place outside rather than in a covered pit, composting food produces fewer greenhouse gases than landfilling does. Methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, is produced when food rots in the absence of air.
By 2025, organic waste landfilling must have decreased by 75%, according to a state law established in 2016. But by discarding 2 million tonnes more food into landfills in 2020 than in its baseline year of 2014, the state was heading in the wrong way.
According to the League of California Cities, which represents the state's towns, the delays are caused in part by a shortage of facilities to handle the organic waste and a short 13-month window between when regulations were completed and when they were to be put into effect.
However, town officials in Apple Valley, a city in Southern California, are prepared and have given residents 35-gallon containers for organic garbage.
The service has increased monthly waste collection costs for consumers by a few dollars, but Guy Eisenbrey, director of municipal services, said the money was well spent.
They are essentially attempting to avoid being the group's slowest gazelle.
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