About 40% of the entire U.S. food supply goes to waste every year, with the leftovers winding up in landfills to rot. As food products decay, they release harmful methane gas, which breaks down the ozone layer, contributing to climate change. But with food waste making up 15% of our country's methane gas emissions, environmentalists say a possible solution could be mandatory food recycling laws.
Joy Klineberg, a homeowner in Davis, California, said she recycles food scraps for compost.
"It's really easy. I mean, all you're changing is where you're throwing things," Klineberg said. "It's just another bin."
Starting next year, cities across California are supposed to establish programs where residents will be required to throw food scraps into special bins instead of the trash. Those bins will then be taken away to facilities for composting to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
"It means that we just don't bury and forget about it," Yolo County, California, Integrated Waste Management Director Ramin Yazdani said. "We're actually taking responsibility and not leaving it for a next generation to do something."
The compost can then be added to soil, helping provide nutrients for new crops to grow.
"I think this is a good way we can really just tell the story of food and the fact that we really need to do what's called closing the loop," Associate Professor Ned Spang of the UC Davis Food Loss and Waste Collaborative said. "The food comes from the land and we really should be returning that back to the lands."
California isn't alone. Vermont has a universal recycling law banning food scraps from landfills. And starting Jan. 1, 2022, New York state will require businesses making two tons of food waste per week or more to recycle it.