Fresh Food

California's Food Waste Reduction Efforts Could Guide the U.S.

The Lempert Report: The state uses anaerobic digesters and has strict legislation in place.


According to a report on Civil Eats, California’s innovative programs and laws to tackle excess food and reduce greenhouse gas emissions could be a template for the nation.

Los Angeles County sanitation planners see far more than a waste-disposal problem—they see a resource. They are using anaerobic digesters that will blend food waste with household sewage and use it to brew biogas, manufactured methane suitable for use in running a county wastewater plant

Eventually, the LA officials hope to generate enough of the gas to fuel their waste-hauling trucks as well.

Disposing of food waste in ways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a very big—and very expensive—challenge. California state legislators have developed rigorous new waste disposal legislation that passed in 2016 and mandates a 50% reduction in organic, or food waste, disposal by 2020 and a 75% reduction by 2025. 

Currently, the state has about 25 composting yards that accept food waste and 14 anaerobic digesters.    

One contributor to the food-to-energy project is the University of California campus in Irvine that reports participating in the anaerobic digester program has transformed the school’s approach to buying food and disposing of waste.

U.C. Irvine sends about 900 tons of food scraps to the digester each year, and it is also working to reduce the volume of scraps thrown away. 

Most of America continues to send its table scraps to the dump. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s most recent findings show that Americans sent nearly 138 million tons of waste to landfills in 2015. Of that, about 22% was food.


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