Imagine a crisp apple, untouched, tossed into a bin. Picture a container of milk, sour and forgotten, being poured down a cafeteria sink. This daily reality is a sad scene that has turned into social and environmental crises a new Washington Department of Ecology program wants to reduce.
The Washington Center for Sustainable Food Management or “Food Center,” is Washington’s hub to connect individuals and organizations across the food system to divert food waste and wasted food away from landfill disposal. Its objective is to cut in half the more than one million tons of food waste dumped in the state’s landfills every year, which includes 400,000 tons of edible food.
“Washington produces a staggering amount of organic waste,” said Ecology's Solid Waste Program Manager Peter Lyon. “The Food Center and its partners are poised to take immediate steps to redirect the flow of this valuable material to where it will have the greatest social and environmental impacts, and create positive economic effects in the process."
The Food Center launched January 1 and will focus on five key areas:
- Advancing equity by applying an environmental justice framework to all work
- Building partnerships across Washington and bridges across important sectors of the state’s food system
- Improving data and tracking to better identify opportunities and sharing best practices
- Driving research that bridges gaps between hunger relief organizations and potential donors
- Inspiring learning and action to drive systemic change and shift people’s relationships with food
Education and behavior change is one of the top actions to address food waste reduction. Later this year the Food Center will take advantage of Food Waste Prevention Week April 3-7 to celebrate its opening and launch Washington’s first statewide food waste reduction campaign. It will focus primarily on consumers interaction with food. In the years ahead, the campaign is expected to grow in scope to address food rescue, recovery, and contamination reduction.
Join the Food Center Launch Webinar
Ecology will host a webinar and feedback session on Monday, Feb. 5, at 1:15 p.m. Please join us to learn more about the Food Center launch and how you can engage with the work ahead. Register today.
Take the Food Center survey
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Preventing food waste is important
Food waste is a social, environmental, and economic issue that affects all Washingtonians. While the Food Center’s main goal is to help everyone gain access to affordable and adequate nutrition by reducing food waste, doing so also saves money, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and conserves energy and other resources needed to grow the wasted food.
American families throw away 25% of the food they buy, which costs them about $2,000 a year, according to the National Resource Defense Council. Preventing food waste will mean more money for people and a healthier environment for all of us.
Shifting away from landfill disposal of food waste and towards higher purposes will lower the methane production capacity of the state’s landfills. Washington’s food waste reduction goal is to cut the current yearly volume of 1.125 million tons of landfilled food waste in half by 2030. This is important because in a landfill, organic material decomposes in a way that emits methane. Methane from landfills is a concern because it is a potent greenhouse gas, especially in the near term. Methane has 84 times more potential than carbon dioxide to warm the climate over a 20-year period.
Organics Management Law
In 2022, the Washington State Legislature passed the Organics Management Law requiring diversion of not just food, but all types organic materials away from landfill disposal and towards food rescue programs and organics management facilities. Sections of the law directly support the implementation of the Use Food Well Washington Plan, Washington’s road map to meet the 2030 statewide food waste reduction goals. The Food Center is one of many recommendations of the plan supported by the law.
We look forward to working with you to reduce food waste and increase food system resiliency here in Washington! – Food Center Team