This is a call to all those scrambling to finish their strategies for the Climate Pollution Reduction Grants. Commonly known as CPRG, this EPA program will soon provide $4.6 billion to states, local governments, tribes, and territories to build and unleash ambitious plans for slashing greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollution.
No doubt cities and states nationwide are working in overdrive to drop their Priority Climate Action Plans, or PCAPs, by March 1, gearing up for competitive funding to bring their initiatives to life. Last December, NRDC published a call for action, making a case that adding food waste projects will make the CPRG applications more competitive. Already leading the charge are Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Oregon, throwing down the gauntlet with food waste in their playbook. New Jersey held extensive workshops and community building sessions that looked at food waste.
These climate action blueprints are going to be important. Every state and city must tackle food waste. With CPRG grants in play, there’s a rare opportunity for action since waste systems are controlled by city and state governments and typically require policy and government funding to fix. The proposals must show real climate impact and scalability.
Unfortunately, many climate proposals still fail to address the crisis of food waste, the single largest item in trash. In the US alone, growing food that is wasted generates 170 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to those of 42 coal-fired power plants. And that’s not even counting methane emissions from food waste rotting in landfills. Landfills rank third in US methane emissions. Global agriculture devours 40% of the world’s land and 70% of its freshwater and emits one third of global greenhouse gas emissions.
But food waste is more than an environmental issue. World Wildlife Fund estimates that 40% of the world’s food is either lost on farms or tossed away in restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and home kitchens while 780 million of us go to bed hungry. We must revolutionize our food systems to feed more people without wrecking the planet. Cutting down on food waste can be a powerhouse for slashing methane, supporting farmers, and boosting local communities.
Thankfully, there are coalitions and state toolkits available today that can be adapted and scaled. For example, California’s Senate Bill 1383 sets methane reduction targets by curbing disposal of organic waste in landfills. It aims to ensure that edible food is recovered, food scraps are composted, compost is purchased by cities, and that inedible food can be used for industries and animal feed.
Climate action plans aren't one-size-fits-all. What works in one state might not cut it in another. But the silver lining lies in the fact that as cities and states work to address food waste, they can tap into a shared treasure trove of best practices and amplify solutions.
So last call. If your PCAP isn’t shouting “Food Waste!” I suggest you add it immediately. Of course, things like energy and transportation are important, but the picture isn’t complete without regenerative and waste-free food systems.
Pete Pearson is senior director of food waste at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Washington, D.C., where WWF works together with the Zero Food Waste Coalition.