California is Working to Curb its Food Waste

Many organizations have their own initiatives to increase awareness concerning food waste, as well as efforts to reduce food waste, as the issue has garnered national attention for its urgency.

Here are some ways that California has taken the lead on the fight against food waste.

For the first time ever CalRecycle, the state’s recycling agency, is offering $5 million through the Food Waste Prevention & Rescue Grant Program. Eligible projects include:

  1. Projects preventing food waste from being generated and becoming waste destined for landfills; and
  2. Food rescue projects that result in rescued food being distributed to people.

The grant application deadline is July 18. Program funding ranges from $25,000 to $500,000. This program is the first of its kind in California and offers groups such as food banks and food pantries funding from the state to acquire much needed resources like refrigerated trucks and staff time. Take advantage of this while you can!

CalRecycle, in conjunction with the California Air Resources Board, is also holding public workshops and requesting public input for policy implementation recommendations for achieving the goals and mandates set forth in SB 1383, the Short Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Act. One of those mandates includes a 20% reduction in edible food waste that is sent to landfills by 2025. These initiatives will help the state get one step closer to realizing our edible food recovery goals.

National trade associations have joined forces to standardize date labeling on food packaging among their members. The initiative would result in only two phrases used on packaging (“BEST If Used By” for quality and “USE By” for safety), instead of the plethora currently in use that lead to consumer confusion, and ultimately, food waste. This food date label initiative, along with CAW sponsored legislation AB 954 (Chiu), encourages manufacturers to use uniform phrases. However, these efforts will eventually lead to more widespread use of these uniform phrases for date labels that will decrease food waste.

AB 1219 (Eggman), the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which CAW is a co-sponsor alongside the California Association of Food Banks (CAFB), provides statewide outreach for Good Samaritan laws which protect good faith food donors along, which is something that has not yet been done. Despite existing federal and state protections, many businesses are still fearful of being sued because of donated food.

AB 954 and AB 1219 have both passed the Assembly, Senate policy committees, and will now be heard in the Senate’s fiscal committee before being voted on by the entire Senate floor. Read more about these measures here.

The consequences of food waste and the ways in which food waste can be avoided are slowly becoming better understood and more widely discussed. Let’s keep food waste on our state’s agenda, and we’ll find more ways to waste less good food and help the Earth too.

Learn more about Food Waste »

Learn more about AB 954 (Chiu) The Food Waste Reduction & Date Labeling Act »

Learn more about AB 1219 (Eggman) The California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act »

Living Plastic-Free this July (And Beyond)

The notion of living plastic-free seems quite daunting, and maybe a little silly. July is Plastic-Free Month, so we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to reassess our lifestyle choices and be more mindful of our actions and their environmental consequences. Changing your lifestyle so drastically may appear fruitless in the grand scheme of things, but making these small changes makes a world of difference, trust me. 

Here are some easy ways to reduce your plastic consumption:

1.      Buy and store in bulk. Bring your own reusable containers and bags to the grocery store. Buy products in bulk to save on cost and unnecessary packaging waste. This will also encourage you to follow a less-processed (and more vegan) lifestyle.

2.      Use natural remedies for personal care. Have fun experimenting with recipes to make your own beauty and personal care products, instead of buying commercial products with plastic packaging and harmful chemical additives.

3.      Start composting. You’ll learn that once you begin eliminating your wet waste (fresh produce) from your waste stream, you’ll no longer need plastic garbage bags. Composting is extremely convenient, can happen right in your backyard, and is great top soil for your home garden!

4.      Learn to bring your own. Get into the habit of bringing your own reusable straw and takeout packaging. Living plastic-free may seem to isolate you from certain activities, but it doesn’t have to if you make a point of coming prepared!

5.      Start collecting your waste. Keep a bag of all your plastic waste. You will become more cognizant of your consumption habits and be more likely to institute change. Our patterns of consumption are so engrained that we often overlook all our instances of waste. Slow down and try to understand all your purchases and activities that involve or further encourage your use of plastic.

For inspiration and more ideas, check out Beth Terry’s website at https://myplasticfreelife.com.

Some other great resources:

·         http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/get-started-living-plastic-free/

·         http://www.onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/two-years-of-living-plastic-free-how-i-did-it-and-what-ive-learned/

·         https://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/

How to Make this Fourth of July Eco-Friendly

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite times of the summer. Family members travel long distances to see each other, watermelon is in season and juicier than ever, and everyone is in a celebratory mood that seems to lift the heavy heat from your shoulders. Unfortunately, Fourth of July celebrations can also be extremely wasteful, as the barbecue is lit for hours and convenient disposable food ware takes center stage.

Here are some tips you can use this summer to make your Fourth of July celebratory and kind to the environment!

1.      Buy local, organic, and vegan. Make your food travel as small a distance as possible to your plate. Minimize your consumption of produce grown using deleterious pesticides and other chemicals that harm your health as well as the soil. Buying vegan is not only an innovative way to help the animals, but it also decreases the carbon footprint of your meal dramatically, as less resources, time, and distance is spent on bringing vegan ingredients to your table.

2.      Grill wisely. Although there is no way to grill without polluting, we can minimize our environmental impact by choosing electric or propane grills over charcoal grills. Research all the options of products that you can use in your grill, experimenting with the source of your coal and the type of lighter fluid you use.

3.      Ditch the disposable. Encourage your guests to bring their own utensils and dishes to minimize waste. If that proves to be inconvenient, use your own food ware and enlist the help of your guests in the cleanup process. Same goes for your decorations. If decorations are a must for setting the celebratory tone, save your decorations from year to year or think unconventionally and use items that are already around your house to decorate your abode without unnecessary consumption.

4.      Opt for community fireworks. Look for locations in your greater community that are hosting firework celebrations instead of discharging your own dangerous chemicals and smoke into our atmosphere. The Earth will thank you!

For more ideas on how to make your Fourth of July more considerate of our environment, check out these resources:

·       http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2015-4-july-august/green-life/5-ways-green-your-4th-july

·         http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/01/green-july-4th-eco-friendly_n_889055.html

·         http://earth911.com/home-garden/8-ways-to-green-4th-of-july/

Motor Oil and Tires and Plastic, Oh My!

Over at the CAW office we’ve been busy creating and improving California policies that will make progressive changes in the world of waste and recycling. Here are the bills that we have been working hard to get to the finish line, and they are all one step away from going to the governor’s desk.

SB 778: Motor Oil Change Intervals- Busting the 3,000 Mile Myth
Authored by Senator Allen, this bill requires all oil change shops to follow the automakers’ suggested drain interval when recommending the customer’s next oil change.
•    Why you should care: Many service shops still tell customers to come back every 3,000 miles for their next oil change, but oil technology has advanced over the last 30 years making the majority of cars capable of lasting 7,500-10,000 miles. This bill ensures all drivers receive accurate information to avoid needless oil changes, save money, and reduce oil waste. 
•    How you can help us: This bill is headed to the Assembly floor for the final vote before going to the governor’s desk. Contact your Assemblymember and ask for their vote!

 

 

AB 1239: Tire Recycling Incentive Program
Authored by Assemblymember Gordon, this bill will increase the state tire fee by no more than $1 to establish a Tire Recycling Incentive Program to provide incentives to end-users of recycled tires and manufacturers who make consumer products using recycled tires
•    Why you should care: Californians generate 42 million passenger tires every single year. Illegally dumped tires pose a significant cost to local governments and the state and the recycling rate has remained largely stagnant.
•    How you can help us: This bill is headed to the Senate floor for the final vote before going to the governor’s desk. Contact your Senator and ask for their vote!

 

 

AB 1419: Old TV & Computer Monitor Recycling (CRT Panel Glass)
Authored by Assemblymember Eggman, this bill will create new recycling paths for Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) panel glass, which can be found in older bulky TV sets and computer monitors
•    Why you should care: New LCD and LED technology for TVs and monitors have taken over and demand for old CRT devices. E-waste recyclers currently have limited options for disposal of CRT, causing some recyclers to go out of business. 
•    How you can help us: This bill is headed to the Senate floor for the final vote before going to the governor’s desk. Contact your Senator and ask for their vote!

 

AB 2530: Reporting of Recycled Content Use in Plastic Bottles
Authored by Assemblymember Gordon, this bill will require manufacturers of beverages sold in plastic bottles, subject to CRV, to report to CalRecycle the amount of post-consumer recycled plastic and virgin plastic that they used in the past year. 
•    Why you should care: The drastic drop in oil prices has lowered demand and price for California-generated recycled materials, and has many manufacturers reconsidering their commitments to using recycled content.
•    How you can help us: This bill is headed to the Senate floor for the final vote before going to the governor’s desk. Contact your Senator and ask for their vote!

AB 1005: Extend Program to Incentivize Plastic Recycling
Authored by Assemblymember Gordon, this bill will extend California’s successful Plastic Market Development (PMD) program an additional year, which encourages the use of California generated recycled beverage container material, create and maintain jobs in California, and close the loop on plastic beverage container recycling.
•    Why you should care: While the PMD program has succeeded in increasing processing and use of recycled plastic in-state, California continues to export significant quantities of plastic collected for recycling. In addition to waste diversion and job creation/retention, there are environmental benefits from using recycled material.
•    How you can help us: This bill is headed to the Senate floor for the final vote before going to the governor’s desk. Contact your Senator and ask for their vote!

                                                       Become a recycling superhero

Become a recycling superhero.  Support Californians Against Waste.

Documentaries that will change your perspective on waste

Whether you’re looking for a great documentary to watch tonight when you get home or if you’re trying to find a meaningful film to show to your club or organization, we have a great list to help you find the perfect movie! Each category of documentaries corresponds with issues that Californians Against Waste has worked on legislation, find out more about our efforts by following the links. 

Plastic Bags

Legislation: SB 270 (Padilla, De Leon, & Lara) California Plastic Bag Ban

  • Bag It: A great documentary that covers the human health impacts, ocean health impacts, and immense waste that comes from the utilization of single use disposable plastic, particularly plastic bags. 
  • The Majestic Plastic Bag: Our personal favorite, a short 4 minute mockumentary of the life of a plastic bag. A great short film to share with friends to begin the conversation about the consequences of plastic bags.  

 

 

 

Food Waste

Legislation: AB 2725 (Chiu) Expiration Date Standardization (inactive bill)

  • Just Eat It: An informative and shocking story about a couple who, for 6 months, lives off of food that would have otherwise been thrown away. Find out some reasons why we are throwing out so much edible food.
  • DIVE!: A look into the lives of people who live off of food from dumpsters, and it isn’t at all what you would imagine it to be. This documentary begs the question, why are grocery stores and restaurants throwing out so much good food?

 

 

 

E- Waste

Legislation: AB 1419 (Eggman) E-Waste: CRT Panel Glass Recycling (active bill)

  • E-Wasteland: Much of our electronic waste is still sent out of the country where the outcomes are unknown. Luckily in California our laws require electronics to at least be broken down before being shipped, in order to deter rudimentary and unsafe methods that are used to take apart electronics some countries they are exported to. In this film find out how much of the worlds e-waste is disposed of.

 

Plastic Waste/ Plastic Recycling

Legislation: 

  • Plastic Paradise: Learn more about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which accumulates plastic waste from three countries in a remote location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. 
  • Plasticized: A film that brings the viewer on board a transatlantic expedition to find evidence of the human footprint even in the most remote corners of the earth. See the extent that plastic pollution in our oceans is affecting wildlife and the environment. 

 

 

Reducing Waste Going to Landfills

Legislation: 

  • Waste Land: Follow the story of artist, Vik Muniz, who travels to Brazil to the world’s largest trash dump in order to shed light on a group of catadores—those who pick recyclables out of waste. Muniz creates images out of trash and hopes to change lives in the process.

 

 

Oil Waste

Legislation: SB 778 (Allen) Motor Oil Drain Interval (active bill)

  • Fuel: The history of the U.S. auto and petroleum industries, the exploration of biofuel alternatives, and interviews with policy makers, educators, and celebrity activists, including Woody Harrelson, Sheryl Crow, Neil Young, and Willie Nelson.

Pushing for New Recycling Solutions for CRT Glass

As LED and LCD television and computer screens continue to take over the world, old fashioned Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) devices (those bulky old TVs and computer monitors) are getting thrown out in record numbers. 

The good news is that a large chunk of CRT glass (known as CRT panel glass) is recyclable, while a smaller portion contains lead (known as CRT funnel glass) and has limited end-use options. However, state regulations that govern CRT panel glass recycling have not kept up with the changing tide of recycling options. This has left recyclers with two options: stockpile or landfill. 

This is troubling because both stockpiling and landfilling come with unwanted environmental consequences. 

We're sponsoring AB 1419 (Eggman) which will create a recycling framework for CRT panel glass. This glass has been processed and rendered harmless for most end-use options. This bill clearly differentiates which recycling markets are appropriate for this material. 

Email your legislator letting them know you support AB 1419. 

California Recycling Levels Fall Below 50% for First Time in Years

California’s overall recycling rate fell to 47 percent in 2015, below the 50 percent or better rates achieved since 2010, and far short of the 75 percent goal set by the legislature for 2020.

The newly-released data from California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) shows that disposal amounts increased by 2 million tons in 2015 compared to 2014, resulting in more waste, higher costs and an additional 200,000 tons of direct greenhouse gas emissions.

“At a time when Governor Brown and State Policy Makers are receiving deserved recognition for the adoption of many Nation-leading policies to reduce pollution and protect the environment, the downturn in the State’s recycling efforts stands out as an embarrassing blemish,” said Mark Murray, Executive Director of the environmental group Californians Against Waste.

Contributing to the recycling drop are low commodity prices, closed recycling centers and cheap disposal alternatives. The low commodity prices for paper, plastics and metals are driven by low oil prices, which in turn makes processing and producing virgin materials from natural resources appear to be cheaper.

Low commodity prices have resulted in the closure of more than 662 recycling centers in California over the last 12 months, with potentially hundreds more closing after July 1, unless urgency legislation is enacted to restore recycler reimbursements to 2015 levels.  

In addition to low commodity prices, recyclers and composter must also compete with artificially low priced disposal options that fail to incorporate their true environmental and regulatory costs.

While new policies have been adopted in an effort to increase recycling (including requirements for businesses to recycle and compost), sporadic enforcement, under investment and slow implementation have undermined program effectiveness and failed to offset increased consumer consumption of disposables.

“It’s been more than a quarter century since California policy makers committed to cutting waste disposal in half, and for most of that period consumer support, manufacturer responsibility, and targeted investment all contributed to achieve 50 percent or better recycling levels,” said Murray.

“But increased fracking and continued taxpayer subsidies for non-renewables and cheap disposal have created an uneven playing field for market-based recycling and composting efforts,” said Murray.

“California’s recycling future is at a crossroads. Greater attention and investment, and updated regulatory scheme is needed to ensure that the California does not backslide on the great environmental and economic strides that have been made to conserve and recycle finite resources.

“It is time for Governor Brown and the legislature to come together to develop a framework that puts California back on the path to sustainable materials management. We have over a quarter century of experience to help us identify which policies and programs have proven successful in the past and should be replicated or expanded.

“We need to ensure that that the economic incentives and regulatory requirements support the growth of recycling, composting, and recycled material-based manufacturing or suffer the consequences increased disposal and taxpayer costs, and a degraded environment.”

The 3,000-Mile Oil Change Con

How some oil change shops drain you of money and pollute the environment.

Your car probably doesn’t need an oil change every 3,000 miles. Or 4,000 miles. Or 5,000 miles. In fact, the majority of car makers now suggest oil changes at 7,500 or 10,000 miles. 

Then why does that little sticker in your window tell you to return in 3,000 miles?

To make oil change shops money. While some oil change shops have kept up with technology and follow the car maker's recommendations, others fall back to the old 3,000-mile rule.

According to an Edmunds.com report on the issue, oil change shops advocate for 3,000-mile oil changes to drum up extra business because more frequent oil changes lead customers to buy more products and services from oil change shops.

But this dirty business practice isn’t just bad for your wallet; it’s also bad for the environment. Changing your oil every 3,000 miles instead of every 7,500 miles not only wastes you a lot of money, but you also pour perfectly good oil down the drain, a lot of which ends up polluting the environment. The damage both financially and environmentally is pretty stark. Here are the numbers over a 5-year period:

Oil change every 3,000 miles

22 oil changes/5 years

$1540 worth of oil changes

132 quarts of oil used and thrown out

Oil change every 7,500 miles

9 oil changes in 5 years

$630 spent on oil changes

54 quarts of oil used and thrown out

According to CalRecycle, used motor oil is one of the largest hazardous waste problems in the state. Motor oil improperly disposed of presents a huge environmental problem because it is insoluble and contains heavy metals and toxic chemicals. Illegally dumped used motor oil makes its way into lakes, streams, and oceans via storm water systems. To further hit the point home and explain just how toxic used motor oil is, consider this: one gallon of used motor oil can foul the taste of 1 million gallons of water. Reducing the consumption of new motor oil, and cutting in half the amount of used motor oil dumped down our drains will have a major benefit to our state’s environment. 

We're sponsoring SB 778, which will require oil change shops to use car maker recommendations when they tell you when to get your oil changed next, not just a low number so they can drum up more business. Please write a short two or three sentence email to your Assemblymember telling them you support SB 778 (you can find out who your assemblymember is and their contact info here).

Check out this story from ABC 7 in San Francisco about the bill. 

 

The Downside To Low Oil Prices

AB 1005 (Gordon) and AB 2530 (Gordon) aim to incentivize in-state plastic recycling. AB 1005 will extend the Plastic Market Development program that supports in-state recyclers that process empty plastic beverage containers. AB 2530 will require plastic beverage containers to be labeled with their recycled content.

Two years ago, a barrel of crude oil cost over $100. Today it hovers in the mid-$30 range. While this break has been great for many Americans, the drop in crude oil prices comes with a drastic environmental cost: More plastic is produced and less in recycled.

This has left our recycling industry struggling to stay afloat.

Plastic is a petroleum-based product, and as oil prices fall, plastic productions costs fall as well. With low oil prices, product manufacturers (think Pepsi, Coca-Cola) can buy newly produced plastic at a lower cost than recycled plastic because the recycling process raises the price.

As a result, recyclers all across the country are suffering the effects of these low oil prices.  David Steiner, the CEO of Waste Management, the largest recycler in North America, recently said in an interview on CNBC, "When you look at our recycling business over the last three years when we really saw the downturn, it sort of fluctuated from slightly profitable to slightly unprofitable." Mr. Steiner says that Waste Management went from a profit margin of about 8% to less than 1%. 

To make matters worse, in California, the plastic we collect for recycling is mostly shipped overseas to China and other countries even though we have many in-state companies capable of recycling plastic. Why aren't these companies recycling our plastic? The market doesn't reward in-state plastic recycling.

To incentivize in-state recycling and reduce new plastic production, Californians Against Waste is pushing two bills through the legislature. The first, AB 1005 (Gordon), will extend the Plastic Market Development program that gives in-state recyclers money to recycle empty plastic beverage containers. Currently, only 50% on plastic collected in California is recycled in-state. The rest is shipped to China and other countries.

Second, AB 2530(Gordon), will require plastic beverage containers to be labeled with their recycling content. This will incentivize beverage companies to invest and buy recycled plastic content.  

California consumers buy green and environmentally minded products all the time, and these two bills will reward companies that go green and invest in recycling.

AB 2725: The Easiest And Cheapest Way To Reduce Food Waste

Our nation has a food waste problem, and in California, Assembly Member David Chiu, Californians Against Waste, and the Natural Resources Defense Council are trying to help by serving up the easiest and cheapest way to help us all waste less food. 

Have you ever noticed food in your kitchen that you couldn’t remember buying? Did you buy it last week? Two weeks ago? A month ago? Did you find a date label on it? If you did and the date had passed already, then the odds are that you threw away the food because you were worried it had expired.

But, did that date mean the food had expired and was no longer safe to eat? 

Around 20% of consumer food waste results from people misinterpreting what their food date labels mean or say. Which means, that food you threw away because it expired? It may have been fine to eat and had just passed its "peak freshness" date. 

In a recent report highlighting the best strategies to reduce food waste and save billions of dollars in the process, fixing food date labels was the number one most cost effective strategy to prevent food waste.

Date labels come in a dizzying variety including “use by,” “best before,” “sell by,” and “enjoy by” dates, yet these dates don’t always mean that the food is unsafe to eat. Even worse, sometimes food just has a date with no words to describe what that date represents. Currently, there is no clear distinction between peak freshness dates (when food might taste best) and safety dates (when food may be unsafe to eat).

We wanted to help change that. Californians Against Waste teamed up with Assembly member Chiu and the Natural Resources Defense Council to sponsor AB 2725 that will standardize the date labels you find on food so that consumers can see a distinct difference between freshness and safety dates. We want you to be able to look at food date labels and easily and consistently understand when your food is at or past its peak freshness or when it is expired. AB 2725 will create two standardized labels for “best if used by” to communicate freshness and “expires on” to communicate safety.

This legislation won’t cost companies much if anything at all and will save consumers money wasted on replacing food they never needed to throw away in the first place. 

With over 5.5 million tons of food dumped in landfills every year in the state, food is the single most prevalent item in California’s waste stream. Food thrown-out by consumers, retailers, and manufacturers poses a significant burden on the American food system. Wasted food costs consumers and industry money, squanders important natural resources, and represents a missed opportunity to feed the millions of hungry households in the United States that are struggling to access healthy, affordable food. Misinterpretation of the date labels on foods is a key factor leading to this waste.

Food waste is such a prevalent problem that even late night comic and Last Week Tonight host John Oliver devoted one of his shows to highlighting this problem

Please send a letter urging the Assembly Health Committee to pass this legislation. It’s easy and should only take you 2 minutes.  Click here.

ReFED's Roadmap to Reduce Food Waste Report Outlines How The U.S. Can Cut Waste and Make Money Doing it

This week, ReFED, a collaboration of leaders from private industry, nonprofits, and government who are committed to reducing food waste in the United State, released a report that will have a profound impact on food waste reduction efforts. 

Courtesy of ReFED,  A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent

Courtesy of ReFED, A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent

A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent shows how achieving a 20% reduction in our nation’s food waste within a decade is not only feasible but also economically beneficial.  The report includes a nationwide inventory of where and how much food waste is occurring, an economic analysis of food waste, and real solutions for more a more efficient food system.

These solutions require an $18 billion investment over the course of a decade, mostly from existing legislation and natural market forces. The benefit to investing in food waste solutions yields a return of $100 billion over a decade, including $5.6 billion in lower food costs for consumers and $2 billion in profit increases for businesses and food service providers who adopt these practices.

The solutions are listed in 3 categories in order of priority: prevention, recovery, and recycling. 

Top Three Solutions with Greatest Economic Value by Category:

  • Prevention: Standardize Date Labeling, Consumer Education Campaigns, and Packaging Adjustments
  • Recovery: Donation Tax Incentives, Standardize Donation Regulations, and Donation Matching Software
  • Recycling: Centralized Composting, Centralized Anaerobic Digestion, and Water Resource Recovery Facilities with Anaerobic Digestion

·    What makes this report so unique is that it is the first national study that looks at the economics of food waste and provides an action plan with cost-effective solutions. Another valuable aspect of ReFED is multitude of stakeholders with ranging areas of expertise, giving the report a comprehensive perspective on the issue of food waste.

Using the solutions listed in the report will put the U.S. on track for halving food waste nationwide by 2030.

Find more information and download the full report at www.ReFED.com

Have We Lost Sight of What Food Date Labels Really Mean?

Recently in a podcast episode of 99% Invisible, the connection between food date labels and how they relate to food waste was explored.

The story begins in Montana, a state that requires “sell by” dates for milk to be 12 days after pasteurization, even though the industry standard is 21 days after pasteurization. Montana state law also prohibits the sale or donation of milk past these dates, causing hundreds of gallons of milk to be dumped down the drain every week in every grocery store. This is an alarming example of the need for food date label standardization.

Image courtesy of The Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic and Racing Horse Productions

Image courtesy of The Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic and Racing Horse Productions

One of the immediate problems with current unregulated date labeling is that the wording used with labels isn’t consistent, leaving consumers left to guess what each of them mean. The meaning of these phrases varies from product to product, and can even vary within a single manufacturer.

For the majority of products these dates are only about freshness and are either obtained from taste tests or estimated by the producer. The small amount of products that actually do pose a health risk if consumed after the printed date includes deli meats, unpasteurized cheeses etc. Yet, current date labeling treats all foods with the same time sensitivity, even though most products have longer shelf lives.

The first food date labels in the 1970s were encrypted because they were only meant for producers and retailers, but consumers demanded ways to determine the freshness of the food they were buying. Eventually, the New York Consumer Protection Board released a booklet that showed consumers how to decode these closed date labels, and prompted demand for open date labels on packaging. Since then 41 states have adopted their own laws requiring certain items to include date labels, and 20 of those states restrict the sale or donation of food after it has reached its printed date even though it may be perfectly suitable to eat.

Many attempts have been made to create federal regulations for date labeling, but none had the support needed to become law. The difference now is that the conversation of food waste has become a national issue. With the support of food waste reduction goals set by government and industry groups, the time is finally right. Emily Broad Leib, lead author of the NRDC-Harvard report “The Dating Game” says “I am hopeful that we can get consumers, industry, and policymakers to agree that a national standard phrase would make sense, and then push for federal and state changes that make this change.”

This year Californians Against Waste and the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) worked together to introduce a bill with Assembly Member David Chiu of San Francisco, which standardizes the phrasing for food date labels. With this bill we hope to reduce waste and help consumers to better understand what food date labels really mean.

Listen to the podcast here

5 Apps That Make it Easy to Reduce Your Food Waste

We can all do our part to reduce food waste globally, and if you don’t know where to start, try one of these apps! 

1. Foodkeeper

This app, created by the USDA, Cornell Institute, and the Food Marketing Institute, provides food storage advice, storage timelines, cooking tips, and even offers a 24/7 virtual representative that can answer questions about food storage and safety. Learn more effective ways to store certain foods so that you can maximize the storage life of groceries. Get storage timelines for specific foods that you have in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. The app even offers a calendar feature that reminds you to use ingredients before they go bad!

Available for Apple  and Android

 2. TangoTab

The next time you feel like going out to eat, use TangoTab and you can help feed a local person in need at the same time. TangoTab is an app that gives users exclusive deals to local restaurants, and when you claim a deal that restaurant TangoTab will donate a meal to feed a person in need through local food banks. “When you eat, they eat!” 

Available for Apple and Android

3. Copia        

If you live in the San Francisco bay area download Copia, an app that allows businesses and events to donate their extra food to feed local people in need. So the next time you have some extra food from a work meeting, don’t throw it away, use Copia to request a donation pickup. After answering a few short questions the app matches you up with a nearby shelter, church, or non-profit and a driver who will come pick up your food. Strengthen your community and protect the environment by sharing your excess food!

Available for Apple and Android 

4. Handpick

Sometimes it seems like even when you have a kitchen full of food there’s nothing to eat! You might have a full meal without even knowing it, and Handpick will help you find recipes with the ingredients you already have on hand. When you use more of what you already have you end up wasting less of the food you buy, saving you money and saving the world. The app also includes a feature called Meal Kits which creates efficient shopping lists paired with recipes meant to use up all of the ingredients you buy. 

Available for Apple and Android

5. Cookbrite

Have you ever been at work or school pondering what you should make for dinner? This digital pantry app allows you to log every ingredient in your kitchen and suggests meal recipes based on what you’re in the mood to eat. All you have to do is take a picture of your receipt when you finish grocery shopping and Cookbrite will update your HomeList with the purchases you make. Browse recipes to make amazing meals with ingredients you already have in your kitchen. You also have the option to choose recipes first and let Cookbrite create your shopping list for you, that way you buy exactly what you need every week and don’t end up with more than you need. 

Available for Android

5 Ways to Show You Love Our Planet this Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day doesn't have to be all about chocolate and flowers. Here are five ways you can become more environmentally friendly and show your love for our beautiful planet. 

5. Use Less Plastic

bag_in_reef.jpg

Beyond voting yes on the plastic bag ban referendum in November to uphold the statewide law, there are many ways you can use less plastic. For instance, you can buy reusable bottles for water, reusable plastic sandwich bags,  bring your own tupperware to restaurants for leftovers, and much more! Check out this useful list for more ideas.

4. Ride Your Bike More and Drive Your Car Less

More than 50% of CO2 emission in California come from driving. You can start riding your bike to work or just around town and significantly reduce the maintenance costs on your car and reduce your carbon foot print. According to AAA, the annual cost to own and operate a car is $8,698. Significantly more expensive than biking to work or biking to a bus stop and taking public transportation. 

3. Properly Recycle your Electronics

monitorbeach.jpg

Most people don't know where to dump their old electronics. While some stores may have programs to take back old electronics, they sometimes charge money for it. Here, is a searchable database so you can find a location near where you live to properly recycle your old electronics free of charge. 

2. Compost

As our landfills begin to fill to their maximum capacity we need to be more proactive in diverting waste from our landfills. Composting also provides a cheap alternative to commercial fertilizers as it contains essential nutrients needed by plants, along with many other benefits that synthetic fertilizers don't have. Compost improves soil structure and texture, allows soil to hold more moisture and prevents soil erosion. Using compost also promotes healthy root systems which can decrease agricultural runoff. Check out our compost page to learn how you can start composting. It's pretty simple stuff!

1. Reduce Food Waste

Don't judge food based on the expiration date, which is often just guess work. Instead just use your nose. If it smells nasty, then throw it out, otherwise you're good to go. A 2012 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that the United States wastes 40 percent of the food it produces - more than 20 pounds of food per person every month. Food waste is an expensive drain on the economy and extremely harmful to the environment, and it is one of the largest waste-related challenges facing us in the 21st Century.  

Feb 4 -Napa County 100% covered by bag bans

In the first few months of the new year, unincorporated areas and Yountville joined the rest of Napa County in banning single-use plastic bags. In a recent Napa Valley Register article, Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht called plastic bags that become windborne “urban tumbleweeds.” He’s seen them piled up against fences while driving. “They make you feel like you’re in a place that’s been neglected,” he said. “I appreciate getting them off the road.”

Yountville Mayor John Dunbar stated, “We expected the state to have a regulation that would be all-encompassing,” Dunbar said. “That has taken so long, we no longer want to wait.” He is referring to the statewide plastic bag ban that was passed in 2014 and was to take effect in 2015. Out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers paid millions to get a referendum put on the November ballot for voters to decide it's fate. CAW commends local jurisdictions for their leadership on the issue in the meantime. Every city or county that passes a ban keeps plastic bags out of the environment, prevents harm to wildlife, and saves taxpayers money in clean-up efforts. Napa County joins Alameda, San Francisco, Sonoma, Marin, and San Luis Obispo Counties in 100% coverage.

Learn more about plastic bag pollution and see a list of local ordinances here.

Learn more about the referendum and sign up for e-mail alerts here.

Endorse the campaign to protect California's ban on single-use plastic bags here.

Feb 1- How Much Money are you Throwing Away in your Kitchen?

According to the USDA, food loss and waste in the United States accounts for approximately 31 percent of the overall food supply available to retailers and consumers. Along with the vast amount of resources needed to produce wasted food and the space it takes up in landfills, the dollar amount that food waste is costing retailers and consumers is enormous. In 2010, the United States spent $161.6 billion on food that was never eaten.

Courtesy of nrdc.org

Courtesy of nrdc.org

Efforts are being made around the world to reduce the amount of food and dollars wasted. Sainsbury, a supermarket chain in the UK recently funded a campaign called ‘Waste Less, Save More’ in which the entire town of Swadlincote, Derbyshire will work to find new ways to cut household food waste in half. This campaign will provide valuable research and new innovative methods of reducing household food waste globally. Already Sainsbury has found that 81% of families surveyed in a study throw out twice as much food each month than they previously estimated.

One of the focuses for the campaign will be to look at the role that food labeling can have on food waste. Expiration date labeling continues to cause confusion in households and can lead to the premature disposal of food. Many times it is the misinterpretation of the wording used for the date labels, examples are “sell by”, “best if used by”, and “best before”.  Jen Rustemeyer, producer of ‘Just Eat it: A Food Waste Story’, explains, “Those date labels — especially the 'best before' date — it's really all about peak freshness, it has absolutely nothing to do with safety. And I think people are getting really confused and thinking that's the absolute last moment that they can possibly consume that item, and it's leading to a lot of waste.”

Check out Californians Against Waste’s Pinterest Page for ways you can reduce food waste in your kitchen!

Read more about food waste HERE.

Jan 21- Rockefeller Foundation and Champions 12.3 Announce New Efforts to Reduce Global Food Waste

This week at the annual World Economic Forum, held in Switzerland, two significant announcements that aim to reduce global food loss and waste were made. The Rockefeller Foundation will be launching YieldWise, a $130 million collaborative initiative in which private and government stakeholders will work to create a global food system that yields minimal food waste.

 A coalition of 30 leaders working to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Target 12.3 which has a goal to cut per capita food loss and waste in half by 2030- Champions 12.3 - has announced plans to accelerate their efforts to reduce food waste. They hope to inspire more action by motivating others, leading by example, and advocating for innovative technology to reduce food waste.

Discarded food makes up 18% of all landfill waste, and much of this waste comes from prematurely discarded food due to the misinterpretation of expiration date labels. Not only is there a clear economic loss in this discarded food, but also social and environmental consequences. According to the World Resources Institute, “It contributes to hunger. And lost and wasted food consumes about one quarter of all water used by agriculture, requires cropland area the size of China, and generates about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions” (wri.org).

This year CAW has an ambitious agenda for reducing food waste in California, including standardizing confusing expiration date labels, creating tax incentives for donating food, and supporting increased funding for food recovery organizations.

Read more about Food Waste here.