Reducing Food Waste Through Legislation

A new food waste ban in Massachusetts requires certain businesses and institutions to donate, compost or produce energy with their organic food waste.

  • Plate Waste
    Unfinished food that’s often just scraped into the trash — referred to as “plate waste” — makes up one segment of the overwhelming amount of food we waste in the United States.
    Photo by Flickr/Alpha

  • Plate Waste

A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that more than 133 billion pounds — a whopping 31 percent — of our available food supply goes uneaten each year. This includes “plate waste,” spoilage and losses to pests. To put this phenomenal food loss in perspective, USDA researchers estimate this amount of food contains 141 trillion calories, which is enough to feed about 175 million people for an entire year! We can’t salvage all of this, but surely we can do better.

Massachusetts is one state leading the charge in reducing food waste. Since Oct. 1, 2014, frittering away leftover fritters — or any other organic material — has been banned for institutions in Massachusetts that produce 1 ton or more of food waste per week. That means about 1,700 businesses are no longer allowed to squander leftovers, but must instead donate remaining edible food to those in need, compost organic waste on-site or at a commercial facility, or use the material to produce electricity via an anaerobic methane digester.

Implementation of the new law is part of the state’s response to concerns about limited landfill space and reports on the staggering amount of edibles we chuck out in the United States. Massachusetts is also offering tax incentives to encourage the opening of more anaerobic digesters and is providing assistance to affected facilities to help them find a cost-effective — and often, compared with traditional landfill drop-offs, cost-saving — option.

Although a limit on what can go into the trash versus the compost pile hasn’t been set for individual households, the new law is poised to make citizens more aware and help them waste less food, too.

Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely working in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can find Jennifer on Twitter or .

8/22/2016 8:56:21 PM

Trying to legislate common sense and compassion? Good luck with that!

8/22/2016 11:07:03 AM

we didn't throw off tyrannical govt (England) so we could then use our own govt to force people to use their food scraps the way someone else tells them. Socialism is about tyrannical govt force and keeping the goods for the top fat cats, but they sell it as compassion for all. You might change someone's behavior temporarily, but you don't change people's hearts by force. And that temporary change of behavior will likely be resented and then you've created disrespect for law and they'll try to find a way around it. Ridiculous force like this actually creates a less law-abiding citizenry, which makes our lives and our rights less safe. Is that really the goal? Why don't you try persuasion instead of force?

8/22/2016 10:14:37 AM

Why would anyone think that you need the Government involved in your food scraps. Just what I want is someone like Nancy Pelosi telling me what to do with my food scraps. I learned from my Mother you don't cook to much and you don't put more on your plate than you can eat. If you want more you could get some more. I purposely cook extra a lot. I vacuum seal and freeze the extra for tasty meals later. What's next, the Toilet Paper Police.

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