New US strategy seeks to curb 66 million tons of food waste

In a new jointly released draft strategy, USDA, EPA and FDA outline goals and solutions related to food loss and waste, which may have far-reaching implications for the food supply chain.

Scott Miller, Staff writer

December 7, 2023

3 Min Read
A dumpster full of food waste.

At a Glance

  • The new draft strategy was a joint effort between USDA, FDA and EPA.
  • “Strategic actions” include investments and efforts to deepen collaboration within the food supply chain.
  • The draft will be open for comment on throughout December.

On Dec. 2, USDA, EPA and FDA jointly released the Draft National Strategy for Reducing Food Loss and Waste and Recycling Organics, a preliminary plan for halving U.S. food loss and waste by 2030. The strategy seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save money for businesses and households, and build more “circular” economies, which the draft defines as “restorative or regenerative by design.” 

“Food loss and waste poses a real challenge to agriculture, food and the climate,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a USDA press release. “In order to tackle this problem, and in turn build a resilient food system and mitigate climate impacts, we must explore and implement innovative solutions.” 

According to the draft strategy, nearly 100 million tons of organic trash enters the U.S. municipal waste system every year, and food constitutes two-thirds of that total. Existing processes for preparing, distributing and disposing of food emit the same greenhouse gases as 60 coal-fired power plants and produce more than half (58%) of all landfill methane emissions. 

Big problems, big goals 

USDA, EPA and FDA acknowledge in the draft that their plan faces numerous challenges, including limited consumer education about food waste and a need for collaboration throughout the supply chain. Before defining solutions, however, they outlined four primary objectives: 

  1. Prevent the loss of food where possible. 

  2. Prevent the waste of food where possible. 

  3. Increase the recycling rate for all organic waste. 

  4. Support policies that incentivize and encourage food loss and waste prevention and organics recycling. 

These objectives align with the food waste reduction targets listed in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 12.3, highlighting a theme throughout the draft: While this new strategy strives to combat climate change, support underserved communities, reduce food insecurity, and drive innovation and economic growth, it can only succeed through local and global collaboration. 

Deepening collaboration 

The draft proposes several “strategic actions,” which begin with deepening partnerships between producers, processors, distributors, retailers, schools and emergency food assistance organizations by investing in technologies and practices that reduce food loss and waste, such as plant-based protective coatings and harvest machinery that reduces bruising. 

Other anticipated actions include a nationwide consumer education campaign, behavioral science investments to determine strategies for changing wasteful behaviors, and support for policymakers in the U.S. and abroad to build more circular communities. One action recommends educating young people through farm-to-school activities such as composting cafeteria food scraps and teaching children to feed those scraps to chickens raised on school grounds. 

Many of the proposed actions will draw funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, commonly known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, passed in 2021, which authorized $550 billion in new federal investments. 

On Dec. 4, EPA posted the draft on the website under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2022-0415 for a 30-day open comment period. 

About the Author(s)

Scott Miller

Staff writer, Food & Beverage Insider

Scott Miller brings two decades of experience as a writer, editor, and communications specialist to Food & Beverage Insider. He’s done a little of everything, from walking a beat as a freelance journalist to taking the Big Red Pen to massive technical volumes. He even ran a professional brewing industry website for several years, leveling up content delivery during an era when everyone had a blog.

Since starting at Food & Beverage Insider, he’s written pieces on the price of greenwashing (and how to avoid it), debunked studies that served little to no purpose (other than upsetting the public) and explained the benefits of caffeine alternatives, along with various other stories on trends and events.

Scott is particularly interested in how science, technology and industry are converging to answer tomorrow’s big questions about food insecurity, climate change and more.

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