Less waste sent to landfills in the US

Across the US, legislative efforts to curb organic waste have been manifold.

Landfill Waste Management circular economy

18 US States introduced at least 52 bills against food waste this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

8 states have issued laws requiring businesses to separate food waste in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Food waste is the largest category of material dumped on landfills.

In 2019, 17,4 % of methane released into the atmosphere came from municipal solid waste landfills. A UN report published in May 2021 on the subject found that facilitating immediate methane reductions are the best way to counteract global warming.

Tackling food waste is essential considering that it is the third largest source of methane emissions in the US (17%), after petroleum production (30%) and animal gas and manure (27%).

In the past year, 46 bills that took food waste management as their subject were introduced in 17 states as well as the District of Columbia.

Several states and cities such as Tennessee, Los Angeles, Madison, Wisconsin and have Washington have created food waste task forces.

Some state-wide legislative efforts, however, have come under fire locally, as in the case of Maryland.

Said state tasks facilities such as supermarkets and schools responsible for producing more than 2 tons of food waste with separating it from other waste and diverting it from landfill by January 1, 2023. Food facilities producing one ton of food waste have till January 1, 2024 to do so. Options suggested for waste diversion include composting, anaerobic digestion as well as donations.

The Maryland Association of Counties opposed the bill due to worries over excessive costs imposed by the law on schools and prisons at a fraught time already characterized by financial setbacks due to an unexpected health pandemic.

In New Jersey, a legislative requirement that tasks producers of food waste (ex. hospitals, restaurants, supermarkets and prisons) to recycle food refuse rather than burn or dump it on landfills was criticised by the New Jersey Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group, for being essentially toothless as the law contains a loophole that the Department of Environmental Protection could exploit to issue waivers to select producers.

Some states have gone further in their efforts to divert organic wate from landfill.

Vermont stepped up in the sense of introducing a blanket ‘no landfill’ ban for biowaste.

Initially passed in 2012, the statute was fully implemented in 2020 despite concerns over complications engendered by the unexpected on-set of the pandemic.

The statute demands that Vermont food producers responsible for generating more than 1 ton of organic waste divert generated biowaste from landfills either via recycling at a facility within a certain distance or through composting. The law is coupled with certain state issued financial incentives ($6 a ton for regular trash).

According to Josh Kelly, materials management sector manager for the state’s department of environmental conservation, the measures are supposed to get people to think “it’s against the law to throw a banana peel in the trash,” before they toss it.