Waste Dive – Why North America Needs An Organics Policy

Mar 12th, 2018

Dive Brief:

  • The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has released a new report that estimates more than 256 million metrics tons of organic waste is generated in North America each year. Approximately 75 million metrics tons are processed via composting or anaerobic digestion.
  • Per this research, the U.S. and Canada divert 32% of organics, while Mexico diverts 7%. The CEC estimates diverting 50% of organic material in the U.S. alone could generate $7 billion in revenue and create more than 160,000 jobs.
  • Proposed solutions include better reporting and standardization, the creation of a North American organics database, raising disposal tip fees, expanding markets for finished compost and other products, increasing engagement of non-residential sectors, improving public education and finding more opportunities for cross-border collaboration.

Dive Insight:

The CEC — established through the 1994 North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation — has been working on this organic waste research for multiple years, and will have more to come in the months ahead. This was part of its 2015-2016 operational plan, connected to the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development of reducing per capita food waste 50% by 2030.

While that goal led to a lot of activity throughout North America, including the U.S., it has been difficult to measure effectiveness. According to a 2017 U.N. progress report, “action is currently taking place at a more rapid pace than is measurement” and so success on hitting the latest milestone was “unknown.” The CEC report calls this its “greatest limitation.” The data issue has been highlighted by BioCycle, and others, many times before.