The Food Recovery Hierarchy prioritizes actions communities can take to prevent and divert wasted food. Each tier of the Food Recovery Hierarchy focuses on different management strategies for your wasted food.
The top levels of the hierarchy are the best ways to prevent and divert wasted food because they create the most benefits for the environment, society and the economy.
Everyone creates wasted food, but it is just as simple to not create it. Both businesses and individuals can learn to effectively prevent the flow of wasted food by taking simple steps such as making grocery lists, inventorying supplies, and buying less.
Feeding Hungry People is the second tier of the Food Recovery Hierarchy. In 2015, over 39 million tons of food was generated in the United States. While Americans dispose of millions of tons of food, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 11.8 percent of American households - about 15 million households - had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources at some time during 2017. In many cases, the food tossed into our nation’s landfills is wholesome, edible food.
We can be leaders in our communities by collecting unspoiled, healthy food and donating it to our neighbors in need. By donating food, we’re feeding people, not landfills, supporting local communities, and saving money. Credit EPA site for statistical information
Feeding Animals is the third tier of Food Recovery Hierarchy. Farmers have been doing this for centuries. With proper and safe handling, anyone can donate food scraps to animals. Food scraps for animals can save farmers and companies money. It is often cheaper to feed animals food scraps rather than having them hauled to a landfill. Companies can also donate extra food to zoos or producers that make animal or pet food. There are many opportunities to feed animals, help the environment and reduce costs.
The fourth tier of the Food Recovery Hierarchy is industrial uses. Food can be used to not only feed people and animals, but also power your car or generator. There is increasing interest in finding effective means to obtain bio-fuel and bio-products from wasted food. These options aim to alleviate some of the environmental and economic issues associated with wasted food while increasing the use of alternative energy sources.
Composting or Feeding the soil is the next tier to the Food Recovery Hierarchy. Even when all actions have been taken to use your wasted food, certain inedible parts will still remain and can be turned into compost to feed and nourish the soil. Like yard waste, food waste scraps can also be composted. Composting these wastes creates a product that can be used to help improve soils, grow the next generation of crops, and improve water quality. Nationally, the composting of food rose from 1.84 million tons in 2013 (5.0 percent of food) to 2.1 million tons (5.3 percent of food) in 2015. In 2015, Americans recovered over 67.7 million tons of MSW through recycling, and over 23 million tons through composting. This is 1.16 pounds per person per day for recycling and 0.4 pounds per person per day for composting. Food composting collection programs served over 3.8 million households in 2015. Credit EPA site for statistical information.
Landfill/Incineration is the last and least acceptable tier in the Food Recovery Hierarchy. The goal is to get our cities to vow that they will significantly cut the amount of waste they generate. By doing this, these cities and regions could possibly lower the amount of waste generated by 15 percent for each citizen by 2030, reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and incineration by 50 percent and increase the diversion rate to 70 percent by 2030.