California’s New Food Waste Law Backfires

A California law that took effect this year that was supposed to help the environment while fighting hunger is instead causing chaos for food banks, businesses and small towns and cities across the state.

The law, SB 1383, which took effect in January, “forces supermarkets and other large food suppliers to divert up to a quarter of edible food now destined for landfills to food banks to feed the needy,” said declared on Los Angeles Times reported in December. “It directs cities and counties to formulate local plans, with a statewide goal of recovering 20% ​​of edible food by 2025,” Reuters reported earlier this month. SB 1383 is the first statewide law in the nation to require businesses to donate excess food to be eaten by hungry people. Compliance requirements, which will eventually include fines, are being phased in. »First, large grocery stores and food wholesalers; later, restaurants and cafeterias will have to comply or face fines,“ABC7 reported Last week.

In addition to the fight against hunger, the law has also been foreseen to combat food waste, which has an outsized contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, as food sent to landfill releases methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The massive scale of food waste is a huge problem. As I detail in my book Biting the hands that feed us: How fewer and smarter laws would make our food system more sustainable, almost 40% of all our food, or around 40 million tonnes, is wasted in the field, during processing, in transit, in the store and/or on the plate. The value of these lost foods is over $165 billion each year. Ten percent of the money Americans spend on food is wasted. The environmental costs of this waste are colossal. Food waste is the third largest contributor to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And the food that is wasted still uses the same inputs to grow – water, fertilizer, pesticides, fuel, wages – as the food that is consumed. “These resources are all depleted, whether food is eaten or left to rot in a field or dump,” I note in the book.

Giddy’s supporters have been busy touting the benefits of California law. “This will reduce food waste and solve food insecurity for millions of people,” said Alhambra Mayor Sasha Renée Pérez. tweeted earlier this year. “California leads again!” Last month, the CBS San Diego affiliate reported the law had caused a dramatic jump in food donations there, calling the law “good news” because it means “more food for San Diego residents who might otherwise go hungry [and] that the food will not have the opportunity to rot in a landfill and emit harmful greenhouse gases in the process.

Yet multiple reports now point to the fact that complying with the law is “Easier said than done,” ABC7 in Los Angeles reports. It’s because grocers, restaurants, food banks, local governments and others haven’t”figure[d] know who is responsible for the recovery [food] Leftovers [under the law]and how to pay the fees.” These costs have only increased due to record gasoline prices. Given these challenges, it has “been difficult for local food banks and small towns to implement [the law] due to rising fuel prices and uncertainty over who pays for food recovery,” Reuters notes.

Although record fuel costs may have been difficult to predict, further cost increases were expected by law. “A League of California Cities survey found that most local governments expect garbage collection rates to increase by less than 20%, with 1 in 5 cities saying they expect charges to increase more,” said the Los Angeles Time Explain last year in an article about the new law, which also contains requirements to set aside compostable food waste at home. “Costa Mesa, an early adopter of green curbside recycling, estimates that over nine years, monthly rates will have increased by a total of $6.10, to $24.10 per month, d ‘here 2023-2024.”

Despite contrary rumors, there are few barriers for businesses to donate leftover food to people in need and the organizations that help them. the Bill Emerson’s Good Samaritan Act, promulgated by Pres. Bill Clinton more than 25 years ago shielded individual and commercial charitable food donors from most civil and criminal liability.

Mandatory government rules to reduce or eliminate food waste ignore fact that the government bears a great deal of responsibility for creating food waste in the first place: like the federally backed industry group that defines tart cherry quotas, obliging farmers whose harvests exceed the quota to throw away the supposed excess quantity; or the terrible waste management contract Oakland signed on in 2015, which made it cheaper for restaurants to throw away food than compost it.

I bet California lawmakers had good intentions when they passed the measure to fight food waste and hunger, but before crafting another law that seems to harm the little guy – food banks, struggling businesses, small towns and villages of California and People in Need, in this case they may have explored and addressed the ways in which the government itself is causing or contributing to these same issues.

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