Editorial: Good And Bad Apples

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Courtesy of BioCycle Magazine

The ReFED “Roadmap To Reduce Food Waste By 20 Percent” (Roadmap) was released on March 9, and very quickly became the go-to document for data on all things food waste — from produce left in the fields to the economic value of centralized composting and anaerobic digestion (AD) of food waste. The ReFED project — ReThink Food Waste Through Economics And Data — was launched in 2015. Members of the lead team authored an excellent article on the Roadmap.

I represented BioCycle as a member of the ReFED Advisory Council and participated in a number of discussions and review of the final Roadmap draft. In short, I was very familiar with the assumptions and findings. Several weeks ago, I received a call from an integrated anaerobic digestion and composting project developer, who is in the capital-raising phase for his facility, which will be processing food waste along with other organics. During the conversation, he commented that he was hesitant to share the findings of the Roadmap with potential funders. He specifically cited the Marginal Food Waste Abatement Cost Curve, because it assigns a low economic value to centralized composting and AD.

Coincidentally, the next day, I presented in a webinar hosted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The state is developing a strategic plan for organic waste management. Hunt Briggs of Resource Recycling Systems and a coauthor of this month’s Roadmap article, highlighted the project’s findings. When discussing the cost abatement curve, he explained a key assumption used in evaluating the economic value of prevention, recovery and recycling solutions for food waste, which is captured in the article: “The net Economic Value and cost-effectiveness of prevention and recovery, which capture the value of edible food, are many times higher than those gained from recycling food scraps. This is because food, once wasted by consumers, is worth 25 to 50 times less than its original retail value.”

Read the full article in BioCycle Magazine

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