Food waste

A proposed rule could make it illegal for hospitals, large restaurants, hotels, universities and other large businesses in Massachusetts to throw away food waste with the rest of their trash.

The proposal would help save landfill space while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions triggered by rotting food as early as 2014, if approved, and would eventually extend to the state’s residential trash disposal as well.

More than 1.4 million tons of food waste would be diverted away from landfills with its own transportation system under the proposed rule, and routed instead to composting sites and special plants capable of using the food waste for energy, heat and fertilizers. Already, more than 100,000 tons of food waste per year are kept from landfills, with about 75 percent going to compost facilities from both residences and businesses, and state officials anticipate 350,000 more tons could be diverted under the proposal. The rule would also allow for refuse such as weeds and manure.

While concerns are high over the added costs to businesses and the potential for pests and health issues connected with storing decomposing food, officials are hopeful that the program’s benefits overshadow the fears, especially as no new landfills are planned in the state, making the ban a necessary shift for New England.

One in six Americans is considered “food insecure” despite the fact that the nation disposes of an estimated 100 million tons of food each year, some of which is perfectly edible. A more conscious approach to food waste could help direct more food to shelters and food bank programs as well.

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Image: petrr