Jan 10, 2024 - Food and Drink

Portland-area food waste declines amid regional efforts

Estimated Oregon food surplus, by sector
Data: ReFED; Note: Manufacturing and food service surplus estimated at the state level from national data; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Consumers and businesses in Oregon produced 1.2 million tons of surplus food in 2022, a 9.4% decrease from 2016, per data from the nonprofit ReFED.

Why it matters: The decrease indicates that the efforts of many cities across the state to address food waste are making a slight dent.

  • Wasting food also wastes the resources that went into producing it, with ripple effects on the climate and the economy.

The big picture: Food waste makes up 24% of municipal landfill input nationally and contributes to 6.1% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

  • On average, a person wastes $759 on uneaten food each year.

State of play: It's been over a decade since Portland launched its curbside compost program, diverting 181,200 tons of food scraps from 2011 to 2022, according to Lindsey Maser, a spokesperson for the city's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

  • Last fall, Metro enacted its compost requirement for the majority of food businesses across the region, estimating 59,000 tons of food waste will be collected from 3,000 Portland-area businesses per year.

Zoom out: Across the country, people and businesses did not eat or sell 88.7 million tons of food in 2022, according to ReFed.

  • That's equivalent to nearly 145 billion meals worth $473 billion.
  • Residential waste made up 42.8 million tons, or 48%, of that total.

Be smart: ReFED suggests following the "Food Waste Five" strategies for reducing waste at home:

  • Store food properly.
  • Freeze food to extend its freshness.
  • Dedicate a day each week for eating leftovers.
  • Understand the meaning behind date "best by" labels.
  • Plan your meals before buying groceries.
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