EPA Encourages Americans to Avoid Food Waste Over the Holidays

WASHINGTON (November 25, 2020) — As America celebrates Thanksgiving this week, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler reminds families and communities to consider the environment when planning their annual dinner and be mindful about wasting food.

“Over 70 billion pounds of food waste reaches our landfills every year, contributing to methane emissions and wasting energy and resources across the food supply chain,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This holiday season, we must all do our part to help people and the environment by preparing only what we need, cutting down our food waste, and sharing or donating what we can to feed others.”

EPA estimates that more food reaches landfills than any other material in everyday trash, constituting 24% of municipal solid waste. This wasted food contributes to landfills being the third largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States. Reducing food waste and redirecting excess food to people, animals, or energy production provide immediate benefits to public health and the environment, including:

  • Reducing methane emissions from landfills.
  • Saving money through thoughtful planning, shopping and storage.
  • Supporting your community by donating untouched food that would have otherwise gone to waste.
  • Conserving energy and resources, preventing pollution involved in the growing, manufacturing, transporting and selling of food.

EPA works with federal partners, non-profits, public and private organizations to reduce wasted food across the food system. This past year, EPA and USDA welcomed four new members to the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions group. The 2030 Champions are businesses and organizations that have made a public commitment to reduce food loss and waste in their own operations in the United States by 50% by the year 2030.  EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge works with over 1,000 business and organizations to set data-driven goals, implement targeted strategies to reduce food waste in their operations and report results to compete for annual recognition.

As part of our efforts to reduce food waste, EPA supports and encourages our partners to recover and distribute excess food to the more than 35 million Americans who lived in food-insecure households in 2019, and in 2020, Americans are going to food banks for their groceries in record numbers. By reducing the amount of food wasted, together we can protect human health and the environment.

Thanksgiving Food Waste Reduction Tips

  • Create and stick to shopping lists, since this year a smaller number of people will likely share the meal.
  • “Shop” the refrigerator and pantry first, so that food does not go to waste and shopping needs are reduced.
  • Plan an “eat the leftovers” night as a great way to use Thanksgiving ingredients and leftovers.
  • “Befriend” the freezer. Freeze extra food such as side dishes or meat.
  • Consider safely sharing extra food with family or donating unopened, non-perishable food items to a local charity. (Always contact food rescue organizations in advance of a drop off.)

Food Rescue Organizations

For organizations hosting events that might have excess prepared but unserved food, consider partnering with food rescue organizations. Remember to make arrangements in advance for potential drop-offs or pick-ups of excess food. Also, remember to only donate food if this can be done safely. The following sites contain tools that allow users to search for food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters that may be interested in accepting wholesome, excess food:

  • Feeding America’s Find Your Local Foodbank has a map of member food banks.
  • Sustainable America’s Food Rescue Locator is a directory of organizations that rescue, glean, transport, prepare, and distribute food to those who need it in their communities.
  • AmpleHarvest.org allows users to search food pantries by ZIP code and shows the search results on an interactive map.

For more tips on how to reduce food waste, see EPA’s website: www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-home

Tyler Barker
Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com