Preserving the Environment

The State That Has Made It Illegal to Throw Away Unwanted Food

August 13, 2014
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The State That Has Made It Illegal to Throw Away Unwanted Food
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When it comes to the environment, "This is not just a win-win situation. It's a win-win-win-win-win-win-win."

We’ve mentioned that food waste is an expensive, environmental nightmare. Americans waste 40 percent of the food that’s produced each year to the tune of $165 billion.

One state has figured out a way to make this stop — by making it a crime.

Starting in October, Massachusetts’s biggest food wasters will no longer be able to send their unwanted food to the landfills, NPR reports. The ban, recently finalized by Gov. Deval Patrick, targets places that produce more than a ton of organic food waste per week, such as universities, hotels, grocery stores, sporting and entertainment venues and other manufacturers.

Instead of simply dumping leftovers, they have the choice to donate the usable food or to send the unwanted food to composting facilities, to plants that can turn scraps into biogas or to farms to use as livestock feed.

MORE: A Few Supplies From the Hardware Store Can Turn Leftovers Into Clean Fuel

NPR notes that it’s the “most ambitious commercial food waste ban in the U.S.”

David Cash, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, described to NPR all the benefits of the ban — including more food for the hungry, money saved on waste disposal, fewer landfills and less greenhouse gases, more green energy and green energy jobs and even fertilizer.

“This is not just a win-win situation,” Cash said. “It’s a win-win-win-win-win-win-win. Seven wins.”

The ban isn’t as draconian as it sounds. Initially announced in 2012, the 1,700 producers that this ban affects have already been preparing and reaping the benefits. Supermarkets, for example, found that they can save $10,000 to $20,000 annually per store by diverting food from the landfills.

The ban — which may eventually extend to smaller businesses and homes — is part of the state’s ambitious goal to reduce its waste stream by 80 percent by 2050. Other states such as Vermont and Connecticut also have similar rules, but nothing as aggressive as Massachusetts’s.

With any luck, the rest of the country will soon catch on, too.

DON’T MISS: How Much Food Could Be Rescued if College Dining Halls Saved Their Leftovers?

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