January 25, 2024

US EPA’s new Wasted Food Scale

Andrea Veselá

FoodCloud Communications Team

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) recently updated its Food Recovery Hierarchy  into a new Wasted Food Scale. Compared to the Food Recovery Hierarchy, this new approach of assessing food waste includes more pathways to fighting food waste, and removes broader pathways such as “industrial uses”. It also distinguishes between two types of anaerobic digestion. 

In the new US hierarchy food waste prevention is the priority measure, followed by donation or upcycling, animal feed or leaving crops unharvested, composting or anaerobic digestion with beneficial use of digestate/biosolids, followed by applying it to land or anaerobic digestion with disposal of digestate/biosolids, and lastly the least desirable pathways are disposal, incineration and landfilling both with and without energy recovery. 

Environmental benefits and circularity potential have been key in developing the new scale, which was based on a report carried out by the US EPA in 2023, which assessed the most common pathways of treating (wasted) food in the US, and presented results which reflect current scientific research and are in line with other food waste hierarchies globally, such as the Food Waste Hierarchy of the European Commission.

In both the US and EU models, after prevention, re-use - namely surplus food redistribution - is the most desirable food waste management pathway. Prevention is a key strategy, however where it is not possible due to various social and economic factors, surplus food donation and redistribution is absolutely key in ensuring food that would have otherwise been wasted retains its full potential and is used for what it was intended for, which is human consumption and nourishment. 

Our mission is to redistribute as much food as possible and we’re always looking for innovative ways to use or preserve more surplus food such as at the FoodCloud Kitchen, or our Cloudy Apple and Carrot Juice.

Where FoodCloud has unavoidable food waste our pro bono partner Green Generation accepts it without charge, ensuring that food we redistribute tracks - as far as currently possible - the food waste hierarchy. Green Generation uses anaerobic digestion to convert food and food production waste into renewable biogas, electricity and high quality organic fertiliser. (The company then upgrades the biogas for use as a transport fuel for their trucks and for direct injection into the natural gas grid. All plastics from food packaging are recycled into a range of durable plastic products, from road barriers to agricultural water drinkers or flower pots.)

Focusing on the order in which wasted food should be treated, maintains its value as far as possible, and keeps resources in the loop, in line with sustainability and circularity principles.

More information here.

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