BioCycle June 2018
Certified Zero Waste: 100 And Counting
Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) announced in April that it has certified its 100th project under its TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) Zero Waste (ZW) certification program. These include projects across the U.S., Canada and Ireland, and help validate that a common standard is emerging for evaluating ZW performance. Projects that have gone through the certification process have collectively reported up to $6.5 million in savings and more than 446,000 tons of waste diverted from landfill, incineration and the environment, according to GBCI. “Managing waste is not always the first priority for companies, but we’re seeing how an effective strategy can deliver substantial triple bottom line benefits,” explains Stephanie Barger, director of market transformation and development for TRUE at GBCI.
Ecosystem Benefits Of Urban Agriculture
A research study published in the Earth Futures online journal in January 2018, “A Global Geospatial Ecosystem Services Estimate of Urban Agriculture,” utilized a quantitative framework to assess global aggregate ecosystem services from existing vegetation in cities and an intensive urban agriculture (UA) adoption scenario based on “data driven estimates of urban morphology and vacant land.” The researchers analyzed global population, urban, meteorological, terrain, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) datasets in Google Earth Engine to derive global scale estimates, aggregated by country, of services provided by UA. “We estimate the value of four ecosystem services provided by existing vegetation in urban areas to be on the order of $33 billion annually,” note the authors of the study. “We project potential annual food production of 100 to 180 million metric tons (110.2-198.4 million tons), energy savings ranging from 14 to 15 billion kilowatt hours, nitrogen sequestration between 100,000 and 170,000 metric tons (110,000 and 187,400 tons), and avoided storm water runoff between 45 and 57 billion cubic meters annually. In addition, we estimate that food production, nitrogen fixation, energy savings, pollination, climate regulation, soil formation and biological control of pests could be worth as much as $80 billion to $160 billion annually in a scenario of intense UA implementation.”
Netherlands Launches “United Against Food Waste”
The Netherlands has launched a new scheme dubbed United Against Food Waste as it aims to be one of the first countries in the world to cut food waste in half in 2030 compared to 2015. Wageningen University & Research (WUR) has been conducting an annual analysis of the amount of food waste generated in the Netherlands since 2009, and estimated the amount in the 2015 baseline was between 1.7 million and 2.5 million tons (of the avoidable parts of food waste).
The United Against Food Waste initiative was announced by the Taskforce Circular Economy in Food, a group comprised of companies, research institutes, civic organizations and the Dutch government. The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality will provide a total of seven million euros (about $8.5 million) over the coming four years to support this objective via investments in innovation, research, monitoring and education.
Among the actions to reduce food waste was creating a pilot shopping aisle at the George Verberne Jumbo Supermarket in Wageningen filled with items made from foods that otherwise would have gone to waste. The store shelf features soup created from ugly fruit and vegetables, beer from stale bread, and soaps made from discarded orange peels. The supermarket aisle is one part of the new national program which will focus on monitoring progress, joining forces to combat food waste across the food supply chain, changing consumer behavior to waste less food, and promoting legislation to recycle food wastes. Researchers from WUR will monitor and test sales and a host of other data points over the next six months to learn how best to expand the line of items.
Diet Quality And Food Waste Analysis
A study published in PLOS One in April examines the relationship between food waste, diet quality, nutrient waste, and multiple measures of sustainability: use of cropland, irrigation water, pesticides, and fertilizers. Notes the abstract of the paper (titled “Relationship between food waste, diet quality, and environmental sustainability”), “Data on food intake, food waste, and application rates of agricultural amendments were collected from diverse U.S. government sources. Diet quality was assessed using the Healthy Eating Index-2015. A biophysical simulation model was used to estimate the amount of cropland associated with wasted food. This analysis finds that U.S. consumers wasted 422g [~1 lb) of food per person daily, with 30 million acres of cropland used to produce this food every year. This accounts for 30 percent of daily calories available for consumption, one-quarter of daily food (by weight) available for consumption, and 7 percent of annual cropland acreage.
“Higher quality diets were associated with greater amounts of food waste and greater amounts of wasted irrigation water and pesticides, but less cropland waste. This is largely due to fruits and vegetables, which are health-promoting and require small amounts of cropland, but require substantial amounts of agricultural inputs. These results suggest that simultaneous efforts to improve diet quality and reduce food waste are necessary. Increasing consumers’ knowledge about how to prepare and store fruits and vegetables will be one of the practical solutions to reducing food waste.
“This is the first study, to the best of our knowledge, to integrate diverse analytical methods from the fields of nutritional epidemiology, agricultural science, and biophysical modeling to investigate the relationship between consumer food waste, diet quality, nutrient waste, and embodied agricultural resources.”
Green Infrastructure Pays In Philadelphia
Instead of spending close to $10 billion on a new 30-mile-long tunnel to pipe storm water to outfalls, the City of Philadelphia opted to invest in thousands of “green” infrastructure installations via a program it calls Green City, Clean Waters. According to a report by Bruce Stutz in Yale Environment 360, Philadelphia is “seven years into a 25-year project designed to reduce its combined sewer overflows by 85 percent under an agreement with the EPA. The city is investing an estimated $2.4 billion in public funds — to be augmented by large expenditures from the private sector — to create a citywide mosaic of green storm water infrastructure.” Installations include “complex bioretention swales that have drains running underneath them,” working in tandem with rain gardens, tree trenches, green roofs, and urban wetlands, states the report. “So far, Philadelphia has built around 1,100 greened acres ….. cutting [storm water] volume by 1.7 billion gallons.”
You can learn more about landscape designs utilized for green storm water infrastructure in Philadelphia Water Department’s “Green Stormwater Infrastructure Landscape Design Guidebook” (Version 3.0, Feb. 2018). Guidebook includes criteria for site assessment and plant selection, guidance on addressing different hydrologic zones, and consideration of site conditions such as sunlight and available space.
“No Taste For Waste”
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) joined the march toward food waste prevention with the launch of its “No Taste for Waste” campaign that features an interactive website, special edition “bookazine” titled “Waste Less, Save Money!” and social media resources for consumers interested in reducing household food waste, and for farmers and ranchers who are taking steps to fight food loss in their fields. “Waste Less, Save Money!,” produced and distributed by Meredith Agrimedia, is an illustrated publication that includes recipes, meal planning tips and stories about how farmers use innovative ag technology to reduce waste on the farm and in their communities. It is being sold on newsstands. An accompanying website, NoTasteForWaste.org, “brings the bookazine to life,” notes AFBF, providing consumers access to a weekly meal planner, online tools to help reduce waste at home and more stories from farmers who are combating food waste and loss. A growing collection of recipes from farmers, bloggers and the Meredith Agrimedia test kitchens will also be highlighted on the site.
Reader’s Digest also released its own food waste reduction tips in the form of “13 Food Scraps You Never Knew You Could Eat.” Recommended methods for reusing food scraps that are often discarded include:
• Rinds from hard cheeses: Base or add-in for homemade stocks and soups
• Aquafaba, the liquid in canned chickpeas, lentils and beans: Egg replacement in recipes
• Pasta cooking water: Freeze into ice cube trays for future use in stocks, broths, soups and chili
• Strawberry stems and leaves: Add to smoothies
Food Collection Requirement Postponed In Vermont
Vermont lawmakers have delayed implementation of a requirement to have solid waste haulers offer residential curbside collection of food scraps in 2018. The state’s Universal Recycling Act 148, passed in 2012, has been rolled out in phases, with haulers, solid waste districts and consumers required to meet deadlines to divert different kinds of solid waste from landfills. Trash haulers were required to offer food scrap collection services starting July 1, 2018, but S.285 — passed at the end of the legislative session in May— delayed that requirement to July 1, 2020. The law instead directs the Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct a study to evaluate if changes are needed in the universal recycling law. The Agency’s report to the Legislature is due before Jan. 15, 2019.
Solid Waste Management Program Manager Cathy Jamieson told Vermont Public Radio the department will do a population study to determine if it makes more sense to only require haulers in densely populated areas to pick up food scraps from residential homes. “The Agency understood the hauler’s position as far as residential collection of food scraps could be challenging especially in the less densely populated areas,” explained Jamieson. “And what the bill did do is direct the Agency to have discussions regarding whether, and how, haulers should be providing the collection service for food scraps.”
In 2017, transfer stations and drop off facilities in Vermont, many in rural areas, were required to accept food waste. In addition, Jamieson noted, a lot of residents in rural areas compost their own food scraps. She added that food waste will be entirely banned from landfills in 2020, and if haulers in rural areas don’t pick up food scraps the state will have to come up with a plan.