Jan 4, 2024 - News

California's food waste declining amid tighter regulations

Estimated California 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 California produced almost 13 million tons of surplus food in 2022, a 10% decrease from 2016, per data from the nonprofit ReFED.

Why it matters: The decrease indicates that the state's efforts to address food waste are making a dent.

The big picture: Wasting food wastes the resources that went into producing it, with ripple effects on climate resources and the economy.

  • Food waste makes up 24% of municipal landfill input 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: California deposits an estimated 11.2 billion pounds of food in landfills annually, according to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.

  • State law now requires residents to sort food scraps and other organic waste into a compost-specific bin after new regulations were enacted last year.
  • The law also mandates that the state recover 20% of edible food otherwise disposed to landfills for use in addressing food insecurity. That's in addition to California's goal of cutting organic waste disposal by 75% by 2025.

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

  • 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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