In March 2017, Oregon DEQ published its Strategic Plan for Preventing the Wasting of Food, which describes the projects DEQ intends to implement over 5 years to “change the conversation” around wasted food to focus more attention on upstream prevention efforts. Most efforts to date in Oregon to address wasted food have focused on keeping organic material out of landfills, But data show that upstream benefits of preventing wasted food dwarf the benefits of simply keeping food waste out of landfills. For example, EPA WARM data show that preventing one ton of food from being wasted would result in 6 times larger lifecycle GHG benefits, on average, than recovering one ton of food through composting. The projects included in the Strategic Plan encompass work ranging from foundational research to estimate how much food Oregonians waste and why and to help establish more robust measurement protocols for Oregon and other jurisdictions, to the development of outreach campaigns to encourage commercial food service operations to reduce their wasting of food. In related work, DEQ also has completed research on the environmental footprint of specific foods, as well as two cross-cutting issues, transportation and packaging.
How was the Project Started?
Both Oregon’s 2050 Vision for Materials Management and the Oregon Global Warming Commission’s Interim Roadmap to 2020 identify wasted food prevention as a priority for Oregon because of the combined environmental burdens of food production, distribution, refrigeration, preparation, and final disposal. Because of the high priority placed on preventing wasted food, Oregon DEQ began investing significant resources (both staff and funding) into this work in 2016. A small team of DEQ staff spent several months in 2016 studying the issues involved and identified the priority projects described in the Strategic Plan. A draft was circulated to both local stakeholders and national experts for their review and comment before the final plan was published in March 2017. Work is underway for several of the projects already (see results below).
When was the Project Started?
When was the Project Completed, or is it Ongoing?
What are the Results to Date?
Several tasks related to the measurement work described above are complete and results are available at oregon.gov.
The full study will be completed mid-2018, with final results available later in the year. DEQ has developed materials for local governments to use in promoting wasted food prevention among commercial food service businesses. Information on “Wasted Food Wasted Money” is available at: http://www.oregon.gov/deq/mm/wpcampaigns/Pages/Wasted-Food-Wasted-Money.aspx.
Work is underway on research aimed at better understanding the relative environmental, nutritional, and cost benefits of various food rescue pathways and DEQ plans to conduct research later in 2018 to develop messaging for residential generators of wasted food and an associated campaign to encourage prevention.
What are the Resources Needed, including Time, Cost, Etc.?
DEQ has had about 1.7 FTE devoted to this work since early 2016, including 1 FTE on detail to Oregon DEQ from USEPA. In addition, we have allocated about $660,000 to date to fund research initiatives and the development of a commercial campaign. DEQ also distributes grant funds annually through a competitive process. In 2017, 6 of 20 projects funded addressed preventing the wasting of food.
- Elaine Blatt
- Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
- Sr. Policy and Program Analyst