Food waste is a persistent problem, with over 25% of the overall food supply at the retail and consumer level going uneaten and wasted. Disposing of our organic material in landfills and incinerators contributes to climate change. Whether landfilled or burned, the waste generates methane and carbon dioxide. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is 86 times more potent in causing the climate to warm than carbon dioxide, and landfills contribute 17% of Maryland’s methane.
Fortunately, this problem has a solution. Large generators of food waste produce most of the organic waste in the state – facilities that generate over 1 ton of food waste a week contribute over half of Maryland’s organic waste. With HB264, these facilities, like cafeterias and grocery stores, will have a drastic impact on lowering our carbon emissions by source-separating their food residuals and diverting them out of landfills and incinerators by pursuing specific zero waste strategies: sending food residuals to a compost or anaerobic digestion facility, reducing waste, donating servable food, managing residuals in a system installed onsite, or diverting food waste for agricultural purposes.
When similar legislation passed in Vermont, food donation increased by at least 30%, taking usable food and getting it into the hands of food banks and hungry people. 800% more Marylanders are food insecure this year than last year.
Aside from climate benefits, compost improves our soil health. When added to soil, compost adds carbon and can reduce urban stormwater pollutants by 60 to 95%. Soil health has been in decline, in part due to our broken food system. We extract nutrients when we grow plants in soil, but do not return those nutrients to the soil. Adding compost to our soil strategy replenishes the soil microbiome and improves soil health.