Getting wasted—or not—at Big Game bashes

You’re surrounded by friends and family, and everyone’s having a great time watching the biggest football game of the year. The first one tastes so good that you have another—and another. Before you know it, you realize you’ve consumed way too many … chicken wings. According to Forbes’ latest tally, Americans polish off more than a billion wings during the Super Bowl, along with 11 billion pounds of chips and 8 million pounds of guacamole, making Super Sunday one of the biggest food consumption days of the year. Unfortunately, with all that food comes the potential for food waste and negative environmental impacts that would leave any fan crying for an Earth interference penalty.

The Natural Resources Defense Council shocked the conscience of the country when it reported in 2012 that America tosses nearly 40 percent of its food each year, translating to an annual loss of $2,275 for the average family of four. In California, the negative impacts of food waste go well beyond cost. As the most productive agricultural state in the nation, we spend 80 percent of our water, 43 percent of our land, and incalculable amounts of soil nutrients, human labor, and natural resources to plant, grow, process, package, transport, market, purchase, and prepare the food we all enjoy. It’s amazing—and equally disheartening—when you learn Californians toss an estimated 5.6 million tons of food each year, according to CalRecycle’s most recent waste characterization study. This comprises 18 percent of what winds up in our landfills each year. Reducing food waste is central to achieving California’s greenhouse gas reduction targets and reaching our goal of 75 percent recycling, composting, or source reduction of solid waste.

Thanks to the rise of the celebrity chef, foodie, and farm-to-fork movements, food awareness and sustainability have become a larger part of the cultural conversation. In an attempt to put a dent in the amount of food waste that winds up in California’s landfills each year, CalRecycle is working in partnership with local jurisdictions across the state to boost the recycling of food and other organic waste in the state. Under California’s Mandatory Organics Recycling law (AB 1826), businesses that generate a certain amount of organic waste per week must arrange for recycling of that waste beginning in spring of 2016. The law phases in the requirements on more businesses over time. For their part, local jurisdictions are required to create and implement organic waste recycling programs and implement an education and outreach campaign to inform impacted businesses.

CalRecycle is also working with local jurisdictions throughout the state to develop the organics recycling infrastructure needed to process this material, including composting and in-vessel digestion facilities that turn organic waste into fuel. Since California is home to roughly 4 million people who are considered food-insecure, CalRecycle made sure to include food rescue language in our organics grant eligibility criteria to encourage more businesses to arrange to have their unused healthy food delivered to needy communities.
With so much at stake for our environment and future generations, why not start a new tradition this year and try to eliminate food waste at your big-game bash. Through smart menu planningcommitting to composting, and making the most of leftovers, you can be an MVP in the drive toward sustainability. After all, there’s no need for trash talk when it comes to food. Let’s keep it on the field, where it belongs.

— Lance Klug
Posted on Feb 4, 2016

Summary: According to Forbes’ latest tally, Americans polish off more than a billion wings during the Super Bowl, along with 11 billion pounds of chips and 8 million pounds of guacamole, making Super Sunday one of the biggest food consumption days of the year. Unfortunately, with all that food comes the potential for food waste and negative environmental impacts that would leave any fan crying for an Earth interference penalty.