At the same time, a growing number of U.S. cities have started tackling food waste by collecting compost directly from people’s homes, just like they do garbage and recycling. Food that’s composted releases less greenhouse gases than food rotting in dumps because of the way it breaks down, scientists say. About 5 percent of U.S. food waste gets composted, government data show.
Six states—California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have made it illegal to send food to a landfill in certain circumstances. “That forces people in the food industry [in those places] to find another way to use all of what they have,” Bloom says. “And if they can’t, it makes them look for a way to compost their food.”
Meanwhile, the world’s 10 largest food retailers, including Kroger and Walmart, have committed to achieving zero food waste within the next few years. That means they plan to reduce, reuse, and recover all the food resources they use instead of discarding them in harmful ways.
Farmers are also taking action, including by looking for options to use imperfect crops. Some sell “ugly” fruits and vegetables to companies that resell them at a discount (see “Big Ideas to Cut Waste,” below). Others employ concurrent picking, in which the best produce goes in one basket for grocery stores and the rest goes into another basket for food banks. Growers are also working with juice companies to develop more products made from less-than-perfect fruit.