The Reports Report

Last week, the EPA released the latest version of its Municipal Solid Waste report. It’s a big occasion in these parts.

If you’re like me, you eschew the fact sheet for the 189-page full report. Because the latter includes the all-important “products discarded” (on page 94). That represents what’s dumped in landfills, after recycling reduces the tons of “products generated.”

In 2009, food scraps made up–dramatic pause–20.8% of what we sent to the landfill. That marked the first time in recent history that we’ve definitively topped the 20%-mark, although last year technically did so, at 19.5%.

Zooming out, the percentage of landfill contents that is food doubled from 1980 to 2009. More than anything, that illustrates the improved recycling of most other goods (while composting languishes).

More bad news: food makes up a larger percentage of trash “generated.” It’s now 14.1%.

The one shimmering ray of, um, hope: food “recovery” (composting, mostly) rocketed from 2.4 to 2.5%.

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And in case you missed it, the USDA just released their every five-year Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. Because of the above reading, I didn’t get through all 95 pages of this departmental step-in-the-right-direction. Fortunately, Marion Nestle did.

Anyway, I was heartened to see that even the two-page summary featured the recommendation to “avoid oversized portions.” You got that, restaurants??

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2 Comments

  1. Kolby Denham
    Posted February 3, 2011 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Hello, I go to Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, TN. In my Writing II class, we are required to write an argument about food and the environment. I found the article “Close the gap: Hunger and Waste in America” published in the Anniston Star and they referenced you, so I did my research. I am writing my essay on hunger due to wasted food/abundance in the U.S. I was wondering if there were if there were any powerful points I could make or any tips you could share. I’ve read your blog, and I am currently reading you book, “American Wasteland” and I am so interested in this topic so I figured I’d ask the pro himself!

    Thank you for any feedback!
    Kolby Denham

  2. Posted February 3, 2011 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    Hey Kolby,
    Glad to hear you’ve chosen the topic and got your hands on my book. I’d say read the environment section of chapter 2 and you’ll be good to go.
    Best of luck!

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