Thanksgiving just might be my favorite holiday of the year, a time where families all across our nation gathered at the dinner table to give thanks and reflect on blessings that have been bestowed on them over the past year. We also ate a lot of food — nearly 50 million turkeys worth — making this time of year an excellent opportunity to focus on how we can better reduce and recycle our food waste.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that Americans will throw away more than 200 million pounds of edible turkey meat in the days after Thanksgiving. That’s enough food to feed every American household with 11 additional servings. More than 100 billion gallons of water will be used to produce that discarded turkey meat, enough water to supply the city of San Francisco for several years.
California has embarked on a bold goal to divert nearly all of our organic waste from landfills in the next decade. Food waste accounts for roughly 50 perfect of all organic waste, and our ability to reduce and better utilize our food waste material is key to providing a more sustainable future.
To accomplish this goal, we will need to divert food waste from landfills and instead create compost that will enrich soil, save water, and improve our food yields. Recycling food waste is also proving to be a cost-effective way to reduce methane releases that contribute to climate change.
With an organized manner of processing food waste, we can help reduce costs and encourage markets to recycle and use this valuable resource. Today, farmers and food processors are already applying food scraps and excess production to their land. This creates better soil, conserving water and energy and increasing food outputs. However, as California has grown to nearly 39 million people, there is much more me we can and must do to better account for and manage our food waste.
This year, I have authored AB 1103 to account for and quantify our efforts to recycle food scraps. AB 1103 outlines a simple registration and reporting system for transporters of food waste destined for landfills or recycling. History tells us that unless we properly account and keep track of our resources, we will squander them.
Collecting data on the production, movement and transformation of products in our waste stream is essential to managing the costs of recycling programs and maximizing benefits.
AB 1103’s proposed measuring standards will be essential in determining the amount of food waste we recycle, the products produced and the cost of that production. Knowing the inputs will help us better judge the outputs of reduced greenhouse gases, water conserved, energy generated and new food produced. In the end, recycling food waste will prove to be one of the most cost-effective ways to eliminate greenhouse gases – giving both our economy and our environment something to be thankful for.
Assemblyman Bill Dodd represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all or portions of Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Solano, Yolo and Colusa counties. To learn more about AB 1103 and food waste go to www.asm.ca.gov/dodd.