How New Food Waste Laws May Affect Grocery Supply Chains

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Reducing food waste should be a priority for everyone, and a growing number of nations, states and cities are passing food waste laws to help curtail the amount of food that goes to waste every year. Supply chain efficiency that reduces food waste may — one day soon — no longer just be a desirable goal your grocery operation works toward; it may become mandatory.

Mandating a better future

Recent developments in food waste reduction legislation include:

  • On July 1, recycling stations in Vermont had to begin accepting household food waste, as the state moves toward a total ban of food scraps in the waste stream by 2020, Waste360 reports.
  • In February, New Jersey legislators introduced a bill that would require the state to cut its food waste in half by 2030.
  • The city of Austin, Texas, began requiring facilities larger than 15,000 square feet to divert organic waste beginning last October, and by October 2017 the rule will apply to all businesses 5,000 square feet or larger, reports SpoilerAlert. By October 2018, all food businesses will be expected to comply, regardless of size.

Additionally, a number of existing government initiatives aim to reduce food waste:

  • Federal law already encourages businesses to donate food that would otherwise go to waste to organizations that distribute it to those in need.
  • New York City eliminated a date-labeling policy that was contributing to milk waste, according to ReFed.
  • Nine states provide tax incentives for food donation, ReFed reports.
  • California, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, as well as San Francisco, Seattle, Boulder (Colorado), Minneapolis and Hennepin County (Minnesota), and New York City have organic waste bans and/or waste recycling laws, ReFed says.

Food waste bans appear to be working. In Massachusetts, the tonnage collected by haulers, processors and food rescue organizations more than doubled since the state implemented its ban, Sustainable America reports.

More than one way

Right now, the majority of legislation attacks food waste on two fronts, by encouraging recovery (food donation) and recycling (composting) — and those are great starting points. However, successfully reducing food waste also requires attention to a third front: preventing food from going to waste in the first place. That’s where reusable plastic containers (RPCs) come in.

Packaging can go a long way toward reducing food waste. By preventing damage of perishables like eggs, produce and case-ready meats in transit, reusable plastic containers ensure less food enters the waste stream. The results can be dramatic; in its Sustainability Handbook, Walmart says during the first year it used RPCs for transporting eggs, damage rates decreased and the packaging prevented 37 million eggs from going to waste.

Right now, the majority of regulations surrounding food packaging focus on product and consumer safety. However, with more national, state and municipal governments adopting laws that make food waste reduction a priority, it’s no stretch of the imagination to envision a day when food packaging regulations will also have to address food waste. When that day comes, grocery supply chains that are already using RPCs will be leading the way — and demonstrating how something that’s good for the environment and society can also be good for business.

To learn more about how reusables create more efficient supply chains, click here.

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