Organic Waste is a major problem across all of North America

Posted On 13 Mar 2018
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The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has published a new report detailing recommended actions for increasing organic waste diversion and processing across Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

Key findings of the report include:

  • North America generates an estimated 265 million tonnes of organic waste each year. Of this amount, residents and businesses divert approximately 75 million tonnes through activities such as composting and anaerobic digestion, and otherwise dispose of approximately 190 million tonnes of organic waste in landfills.
  • Canada and the United States both have an organic diversion rate of 32 percent, while Mexico has a rate of 7 percent.
  • The potential positive economic impacts of organic waste diversion are significant in terms of job creation potential and subsequent increase in GDP. For example, diverting 50 percent of the 141.5 million tonnes of organic waste (residential and ICI) disposed of in the United States in 2014 could generate an estimated US$7 billion in revenue and create over 160,000 jobs.
  • Many actions can be taken to foster the expansion of organic waste diversion and processing in North America, such as consistent outreach and education programs for the general public, promoting or increasing incentives to spur growth related to expanded infrastructure, increasing landfill and waste-to-energy tipping fees for organic waste, and supporting the growing market for products derived from organic waste across North America.

Food loss and waste, across the entire food supply chain, is an enormous problem that affects our economy, food security and environment.

Estimates drawn from the CEC foundational research on food waste calculate the annual quantities of North American food waste at greater than 168 million tonnes, and with a value of food produced but not consumed exceeding US$278 billion.

Beyond the monetary loss, food waste correlates to significant inefficiency in transportation and distribution and waste of water, agricultural land, and other inputs in production. Waste that is disposed of in landfills contributes to the formation and release of methane gas—a potent, short-lived climate pollutant and greenhouse gas.

About the report

This report presents the key findings of a two-year research project, the CEC’s North American Initiative on Organic Waste Diversion and Processing. Providing statistics on organic waste generation, diversion, and disposal in North America, the report details the environmental benefits associated with reducing organic waste disposal. With a focus on policy and decision makers, it identifies challenges, opportunities, and best practices for increasing organic waste diversion and processing across North America.

This project builds upon work conducted under the CEC Operational Plan 2015-2016North American Initiative on Food Waste Reduction and Recovery

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