U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Is Investing in Recycling Infrastructure, Including Food and Organics
Growing problem, untapped opportunity to protect the climate
Wasted food is both a growing problem and an untapped opportunity. In 2019 alone, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that about 66 million tons of wasted food were generated in the food retail, food service and residential sectors, and most of this waste (about 60%) was sent to landfills. In 2018 in the United States, more food reached landfills and combustion facilities than any other single material in our everyday trash.
Improving the management of organic waste is essential to mitigating the effects of climate change, as organic material sent to landfills releases large amounts of methane. In fact, reducing food waste is one of the most impactful actions we can take to reduce climate change. Municipal solid waste landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, with methane itself up to 30 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Treating food as a valuable resource and taking advantage of more beneficial management pathways keeps food out of landfills, as well as creates products that provide energy and return nutrients to the soil.
2023 Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling awards for communities, states and territories
In an effort to combat climate change and help build a circular economy, EPA recently announced the 2023 grant selectees and recipients for two of the Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling (SWIFR) funding opportunities. The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides the largest EPA investment in recycling in 30 years to support the National Recycling Strategy implementation and the U.S. Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal (to decrease food loss and waste in the United States by 50% by 2030).
As part of the Investing in America agenda, this funding supports improvements to waste management systems and programs, allowing resources to be used more efficiently and reducing the impact on the climate. In addition, these grants advance the Justice40 Initiative, which aims to ensure that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved and overburdened by pollution.
Awardee projects include organics recycling
In 2023, SWIFR funds of over $105 million will be awarded to 56 U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia, and 25 communities (counties, cities, towns, parishes and similar units of governments). Activities related to organics recycling, composting or anaerobic digestion are included in 33 projects that make up over $44 million of the $105 million 2023 SWIFR funds.
The selected projects include preventing organic material (such as food scraps or yard waste) from being landfilled in the first place, as well as developing better infrastructure to compost or anaerobically digest the remaining organic material. Building considerations related to organics management, including food, into a community’s waste management plan strengthens traditional recycling programs by reducing cross contamination. It can also conserve the resources (such as land, water and energy) that go into producing food, create jobs and build cleaner communities.
The grant selectees and recipients will take active steps to reduce the amount of organic materials sent to landfill and, instead, recycling these materials into valuable products, such as compost and anaerobic digestate. These projects can help make recycling organic materials just as common as recycling “traditional” materials, such as paper, aluminum or plastic. Learn more about the 2023 SWIFR grantees and the communities they are impacting on EPA’s webpage.
EPA will make the awards once all legal and administrative requirements are satisfied.