How Your Business Can Adapt to Meet Food Waste Regulations

Kristin Kinder

The importance of managing food waste efficiently is obvious to most businesses in the restaurant, grocery, hospitality and food manufacturing industries. Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that 40% of food produced is wasted and that food waste comprises more than 20% of landfill contents. But developing a consistent strategy across multiple facilities—each governed by unique city and municipal regulations—can prove daunting. Ecova’s recent webinar, Complying with Waste Regulations – Food Waste 301, built on the first two installments in this series to explore how businesses can meet this challenge head-on and put waste technologies and solutions to work for them.

Ecova’s webinar took a deeper dive into some of the issues touched upon previously, examining the strictest regulations and penalties in major regions, cities and municipalities. The presentation also identified several promising processing technologies that can divert food waste from landfills and help restaurants comply with regulations. Ecova hopes that businesses of all sizes can use the insight shared in this webinar to develop their long-term strategy for meeting food waste regulations and improving their bottom line.

Below, we answer some of the most important questions from our webinar audience.

Q: What methods should my business use to manage packaged food waste?

A: First, we recommend determining why packaged food is going to waste. Are there processes you can adjust so that products don’t expire or fewer are damaged in the distribution process? Do you know how much food waste your business generates and what percentage is packaged? You can then compare the relative costs of implementing technologies to reduce waste (e.g., the Doda Bio Separator or Scott Separation System) and the labor required for staff to remove food waste packaging against the costs saved by diverting material from a landfill.

Q: Most waste bans fail to mention a specific dollar amount for penalties and fees. What specific financial penalties have helped ensure the ban achieves its intent?

A: Most cities or states pass bans to increase awareness and drive change, rather than punish offenders. As a result, these regulations are typically supported with educational initiatives. However, financial penalties can serve as a powerful motivator. For example, the City of Seattle has banned food waste from the landfill from residents and businesses. If more than 10% of the contents of a company’s garbage is food waste, they can be fined $50 per occurrence. Seattle Public Utilities estimates that this law will divert 38,000 tons of food scraps from landfills and into composting.

Q: What states are currently developing regulations for the amount of food waste sent to landfills?

A: Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and California have all banned food waste sent to landfills, at least from large commercial generators. In September 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the EPA announced a joint goal to reduce the percentage of wasted food in the United States from 40% to 20% by 2020. This measure is still developing, with the USDA and EPA examining food waste holistically from production to disposal. As it evolves, more states are likely to begin setting food waste reduction concrete goals in alignment with the national plan.

View the on-demand webinar to find answers to more questions about reducing food waste.

Waste management is just one of the many complex topics addressed in Ecova’s webinars, which leverage the insight of our experts to help your business thrive. To receive personal invites to future sustainability webinars, please subscribe here.

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