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US Composting Council applauds U.S. food loss reduction and organics recycling strategy

A pile of food scraps
The USCC says that composting is the most economical option for inedible food scraps. Adobe Stock Images

The US Composting Council (USCC) has praised the Biden administration's strategy to achieve a 50 percent reduction goal in food loss and waste as a much-needed and comprehensive plan that includes the key needs of composters. USCC was pleased to see strategies for increased funding, closure of data gaps in research, and expanding the marketing of compost as the end product.

The new strategy has had a long road, that began in 2015 when USCC, the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), and other partners were part of the announcement. The strategy was open for comment in fall 2023, at the same time the EPA released a long-awaited revision to the food waste hierarchy. This new "Wasted Food Scale" prioritized actions that prevent and divert wasted food from disposal. Tiers of the food waste scale highlight different pathways for preventing or managing wasted food in order, from most preferred to least preferred. The USCC says that composting is the most economical option for inedible food scraps.

"Composting is a vital component in this uphill battle, and we encourage all individuals to continue to support composting as the organics recycling method of choice," said USCC Executive Director Frank Franciosi. "Compost as a product has the unmatched capacity to enable climate-resilient landscapes through actively improving soils and managing for environmental stressors such as flooding and drought. It also actively replenishes the soil with an amendment that sequesters carbon, increases water retention, increases soil health, and reduces soil erosion."

The main objectives of the Biden Administration's strategy are to: prevent food loss, prevent food waste, increase the recycling rate for all organic waste, and support policies that incentivize and encourage the prevention of food loss and waste and organics recycling. 

In enacting this new National Strategy for Reducing Food Loss and Waste and Recycling Organics, the EPA is including a number of recommendations that the USCC and others suggested in 2023:

  1. The USCC applauds the critical recognition of the many benefits that inedible food turned into compost can provide. 
  2. USCC called on the agencies involved to tap a lead agency to address data gaps related to the consequences of food loss and waste. This National Strategy for Reducing Food Loss and Waste and Recycling Organics seeks to close that knowledge gap, especially in relation to the new food waste scale and quantifying the benefits of composting/ compost nationwide.
  3. The acknowledgment of the federal role in providing and/or stimulating incentives for infrastructure funding (such as the proposed Compost Act). 
  4. Highlighting the importance of compost application as a tool for carbon sequestration and water conservation within the reality of climate change and severe droughts

Furthermore, the strategy includes grants and funding related to compost, community composting, and organics recycling including, but not limited to the following: 

  • $75 million in grants for supporting education and outreach efforts for food and organics recycling 
  • $30 million over three years through Composting and Food Waste Reduction cooperative agreements
  • $275 million in grants through the Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling Grant Program 52 (part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) for capacity building and training for underserved communities through the SWIFR program. 
  • The Community Change Grant program receives $2B in funding for environmental and climate justice activities to benefit disadvantaged communities
  • $5B in grants to states, local governments, tribes, and territories that could fund programs and incentives that reduce or divert food and/or yard waste through improved production practices, improved collection services, and increased reuse or recycling rates.

The need for infrastructure for all pathways for addressing wasted food is acknowledged in the new strategy, an important priority for composting in the U.S. The USCC estimates that 300 to 500 more food waste compost facilities are needed across the U.S. to turn inedible food into the organic matter provided by compost to enhance the soil. The USCC applauds the requests for educational materials, the increase in market awareness for compost and the funding for programs to increase the capacity to transform food waste into compost and other beneficial products. 

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