Forty percent of food produced in the United States is wasted, making it the largest component of municipal landfills. Waste occurs throughout the supply chain, with the highest being from households, businesses, farms, and manufacturers. Waste transcends what goes in the trash, and includes the tremendous amount of resources, like energy, land, and water, required to cultivate the uneaten food and wasted goods. Organic waste in landfills generates, methane, a potent greenhouse gas. By composting wasted food and other organics, methane emissions are significantly reduced. Compost reduces and, in some cases, eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers, promoting higher yields of agricultural crops.
The USDA and EPA set a goal to cut food waste in half by 2030. In the entire United States, only five states, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont, have passed laws to keep food out of landfills. Ten states offer a tax incentive for food donations, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and District of Columbia. Arizona offers a deduction, while the others provide credits between 10 and 50 percent of the value of the donated food.
Having more composting facilities makes it easy for self-motivated residents to compost their scraps. Also, statewide mandates for composting are lacking. Few states have mandates for special treatment of organic goods, but vary in their specificity. Given the prevalence of farming in the South, community-sourced compost could be a very impactful environmental program to explore by leaders there.
Yard trimmings, biosolids, and certain food scraps can be composted. Throughout the state of Florida, there are compost programs to support yard trimmings and solid waste. However, Orlando is the only city that has a public composting infrastructure in place for composting food scraps. The Progressive Composting program is involved with recycling of organic solid wastes, with the main focus on the production and use of compost made from solid waste, and on source-separated organic processing facilities. The state of Florida missed its goal of recycling 75% of municipal waste by 2020. Organic waste made up about 27% of the total waste in Florida landfills in 2020. Despite efforts of organizations like FORCE Florida to emphasize the importance of organic waste recycling, the state recycled only 6% of food waste in 2020, a notable improvement from 2% in 2019, but that means 94% of food waste went to a landfill. There is hardly any public infrastructure for food waste composting in Florida, with the exception of a few counties like Orlando and Leon County. These counties offer public composting collection services like food scrap pick-up for businesses and drop-off locations for residents. Other counties in Florida, like Brevard, are hoping to follow suit and pilot their own composting programs. However, with the current lack of compost processing infrastructure, launching such programs may require a good deal of organizing. Despite these challenges, states like California, Connecticut, and Vermont, are growing their composting infrastructure and setting rigorous food waste diversion goals. The models are out there; we just need Florida to continue to prioritize organic waste recycling.