Some states are sending less food to landfills
Waste reprocessing cuts methane gas
Prominent Northeastern grocery store chain Hannaford Supermarkets made headlines recently by declaring that for an entire year it had not sent any spoiled or outdated food to landfills, where the organic decomposition process produces methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.
Instead, Hannaford, which operates in New England and New York, is contracting with an anaerobic food reprocesser to strip the food from its packaging, mix it with microbes and manure, and turn it into fuel, fertilizer and bedding for dairy cows.
While bovines belching methane also is a climate problem, the Hannaford effort targets one of the leading sources of methane. Food waste in landfills produces the third-largest amount of methane emissions in the United States (17%), after petroleum production (30%) and animal gas and manure (27%), according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
At least eight states, all in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic except California, have laws requiring some reprocessing of food waste, to keep it out of landfills and cut down on greenhouse gases, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
States have come up with a number of approaches to reduce food waste, especially the refuse bound for landfills. They include laws that require separation of food from other waste and incentives in the form of grants.
This year, state lawmakers have introduced at least 52 bills in 18 states involving food waste management, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Last year, 46 bills were introduced across 17 states and the District of Columbia. The waste management firm RTS noted that some states and cities including Tennessee and Washington, and Los Angeles and Madison, Wisconsin, have created food waste task forces.
Maryland and New Jersey are the latest to adopt similar laws. Maryland requires food facilities producing more than 2 tons of food waste a week to separate it from other waste and divert it from landfills by Jan. 1, 2023. Facilities that produce one ton a week have until Jan. 1, 2024. In both cases, the law applies only if the food originates within a 30-mile radius of a recycling facility.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, allowed the bill to become law without his signature.
Critics of the Maryland law argued that a mandate would be costly and called for letting market forces work things out. The Maryland Association of Counties opposed the bill because of worries over increased costs, especially to schools and prisons.
The state’s restaurant association fought the measure too; the legislature ultimately exempted restaurants before passing the law, according to Wastedive, a trade publication.