In 2014, the US generated 38.4 million tons of food waste (14.9 percent of total municipal solid waste (MSW) generated) and sent 29.4 million tons of food to the landfills (21.6 percent of total MSW landfilled). This is 184 pounds of food landfilled per capita in 2014. (2016 EPA) Landfills are the source of 20 percent of the total methane emissions in the United States contributing to climate change. (2014 EPA) The Environmental Protection Agency, United States Department of Agriculture and the United Nations all have set goals to decrease food waste by half by 2030. (EPA, USDA, UN)
- Nearly 1 in 6 of our neighbors in North Carolina is food insecure. (NC Association of Feeding America Food Banks)
- In 2012, North Carolina generated 247 pounds of food waste per person. (2012 NCDEQ)
- In 2015, North Carolina recovered approximately 100,000 tons of excess food through food donations (15 percent), animal feeding (18 percent), anaerobic digestion (20 percent) and composting (47 percent). (2016 NCDEQ)
Benefits of Reducing Food Waste
- Saving money: An average family of four wastes $1,500 a year on food that is thrown away. Families can prevent food waste and save money through smart purchasing, improving food preparation and following better storage practices. (Food Waste Reduction Tips for Homes and for Businesses - EPA, SaveTheFood.com)
- Saving landfill space: In 2015, North Carolina recovered 100,000 tons of food waste, saving approximately 147,000 cubic yards of landfill space – the equivalent of one football field almost 70 feet high! (EPA)
- Conserving resources: the growing, processing, packaging and transporting of food uses significant amounts of water, energy, resources, time and money – all of it lost if the food is not consumed. (Rethinking Food Waste through Economics and Data).
- Feeding animals leftovers: Under the right circumstances, food waste can also be used to feed chickens, hogs or cows. (EPA, University of Arkansas)
- Returning nutrients to the soil: Food waste can be used to create compost, which improves soil health and structure, increases water retention, supports plant growth and reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides. (EPA, NC State Extension, US Composting Council)
- Creating energy: Food waste can be used to generate electricity or natural gas through anaerobic digestion. (EPA, American Biogas Council)
- Reaching recycling goals: Preventing food waste can help achieve communities and waste generators achieve their waste reduction goals.
Action for Homes
- Prevent food waste at home by shopping smart, preparing smart and storing smart at home using the EPA Guide.
- Compost using the EPA and NC State Extension’s home composting guides.
- Volunteer at a local food bank. Find a list of food banks through the North Carolina Association of Feeding America Food Banks.
- Familiarize yourself with date labels and what they really mean, learn from USDA and Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic.
Action for Businesses and Institutions
- Use billboard graphics to bring awareness to the wasting of food, using the AdCouncil/NRDC SaveTheFood.com campaign (this one does not fit a home audience)
- Prevent food waste in commercial kitchens: (a) Restaurant Guide, (b) US EPA Food Recovery Challenge and (c) Food Waste Alliance Best Practices Toolkit.
- Donate extra food to your local food bank. Find a list of food banks through the North Carolina Association of Feeding America Food Banks.
- Learn more about liability protections through NC General Statute 99B-10 and Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act—signed into law to encourage the donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to individuals in need. The legislation offers protection for these donors from liability when donating food in good faith. (Feeding America)
- Legal Fact Sheet for North Carolina Food Donation: Liability Protections (Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, February 2017)
- Donated Food Position Statement (N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, December 2016)
- Learn about tax incentives:
- Legal Fact Sheet for North Carolina Food Donation: Tax Incentives for Businesses (Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, February 2017)
- Learn on how to donate food waste a restaurant through the National Restaurant Association's 5 practices to make food donation easier.
- Compost the leftovers, using the services of food waste collectors in your area. (NCDEQ)
- Learn how to compost commercially. (NCDEQ)
Technical Assistance Available
The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality provides free, confidential technical assistance to citizens, businesses, and local governments on recycling, food waste reduction, and more. For a list of contacts, please go to the staff contacts page.
For questions, please contact a staff member.