Reducing Food Waste In Canada

(3BL/JustMeans) Food waste is a big problem in Canada. About one third of all food produced in that country for human consumption is wasted. This food waste costs about $31 billion a year. Most of the food waste winds up in landfills where it rots and emits methane, a greenhouse gas with a warming potential 23 times that of carbon. The heat trapping potential of just one ton of methane emissions is 25 times more potent than one ton of carbon measured over a 100-year period, according to Environment Canada, the country’s federal environmental agency.

Food waste is Canada’s largest share of landfill organics. Landfills are responsible for a large portion of the country’s methane emissions. About four million tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) generated in the country annually could be reduced by taking action to reduce food waste, as a study commissioned by the National Zero Waste Council found. Written by Tetra Tech and Boston Consulting, the study discovered that Canada could reduce GHG emissions associated with food waste by over 60 percent by 2030 if actions are implemented that have been proposed in a nationwide food waste reduction strategy.

Canada has set a target for reducing 175 million tons of GHG emissions by 2030. But that target leaves the country 44 million tons shy of the target to reduce 30 percent of emissions from 2005 levels, which is Canada’s commitment in the Paris agreement. Actions recommended in the National Food Waste Strategy could fill in the gap.

There are a number of ways to manage and reduce food waste, as the report outlines. One of those ways is prevention. A good way to prevent food waste is to reduce its generation at source. Other ways include recovering wasted food for human and animal consumption and giving surplus prepared foods from catering services to those in need.

Food waste that cannot be prevented can be diverted. There are a variety of ways, which include composting. Centralized composting involves collecting organic waste from residential and commercial sources and taking them to an industrial composting facility. Industrial composing includes both open systems (window or aerated piles) and enclosed (in-vessel or under a cover). Non-thermal energy recovering is another way to divert food waste. With non-thermal energy recovery, food waste is converted and mixed into biogas that is used to generate energy or conversion to clean natural gas.

Managed disposal is still another way to manage and reduce food waste. Thermal energy recovery is used to convert mixed waste, including food waste, into gases at high temperatures. Energy is recovered using either heat for cogeneration, or through collecting and refining the syngas in a process called gasification. Through thermal energy recovery, the amount of food waste sent to landfills is reduced.

Photo: Tetra Tech