Food Waste and the Climate Crisis
Here are some facts about food waste and its enormous impact on the climate crisis:
- 35% of our food is wasted and if our country reduced food waste by only 15%, we'd feed 25 million more people every year.1
- 14% of all freshwater in the U.S. is used to produce our wasted food each year.2
- Every 100 pounds of food waste in our landfills sends 8.3 pounds of methane into the atmosphere.3
- Over 20 years, methane has 86 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.4
- If global food waste were a country, it would rank third in greenhouse gas emissions after China and the U.S.5 (Here's how food waste breaks down by type of food worldwide.)
- The contribution of food waste emissions to global warming is almost equivalent (87%) to global road transport emissions.5
- The annual GHG emissions from food waste are 2x the emissions from all cars in the U.S. and Europe.6
- In North Bay Area cities, food accounts for nearly 20% of the GHG footprint in the average household.7
- According to a 2008 Marin Sanitary Service study, 9.4 million pounds of food waste were being disposed into Marin landfills at that time.8 MSS is doing great work with Marin residents and businesses to reduce that total, but there is clearly much fresh food being wasted in our county. According to a 2014 MSS study, "around 30% of the waste that goes to the landfill is food waste” in Marin.9
As a result, though, reducing food waste is an exciting opportunity to have collective impact on global warming:
- According to the international research coalition Project Drawdown10, reducing food waste is the most impactful solution to global warming.
- California state law SB 1383 requires that at least 20% of all currently disposed edible food is recovered for human consumption by 2025.
- California state law AB 1826 requires businesses with a minimum amount of organic waste, including food and food scraps, to recycle it -- rather than having it disposed in our landfills -- as of April 1, 2016.
It is heartbreaking to see men, women, and children go hungry in our community. And it is heartbreaking to see so much fresh, nutritious food go to waste.
Please join us in helping to end hunger and food waste in Marin County:
1 ReFED 2020 Annual Report and Natural Resources Defense Council, “Wasted: How America is losing up to 40% of its food from farm to fork to landfill,” 2017.
4 2017 Clean Air Plan, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, April 2017, p. 3/13
5 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Food wastage footprint & climate change,” 2015
6Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, written communication, July 2021.
7 Bay Area Consumption-Based GHG Emissions Inventory, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, January 2016.
8 Marin Sanitary Service, personal communication, January 2014.
9 Marin Independent Journal, March 19, 2014.
10 Project Drawdown, 2020.