Food Residuals Diversion

According to the most recent federal data available, food waste residuals are the largest single category of solid waste being disposed in landfills. EPD supports U.S. EPA’s 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal based on the Food Recovery Hierarchy through the recovery of food and valuable organic resources and composting.

Recovering Wasted Food

What is wasted food?

According to EPA, the term “wasted food” describes food that was not used for its intended purpose. Examples include unsold food from retail stores; plate waste, uneaten prepared food, or kitchen trimmings from restaurants, cafeterias, and households; or by-products from food and beverage processing facilities. EPA uses the overarching term “wasted food” instead of “food waste” for food that was not used for its intended purpose because it conveys that a valuable resource is being wasted, whereas “food waste” implies that the food no longer has value and needs to be managed as waste.

How does this impact Georgians?

Based on the most recent data available, food residuals makes up 12 percent – or more than 800,000 tons – of the waste sent to Georgia landfills each year, with approximately 48% coming from the greater Atlanta area. This represents the largest single category of solid waste going into Georgia’s landfills. Organic materials sent to landfills not only increase the size of the landfills, but also contribute to methane emissions in the United States, according to EPA.

Feeding America’s 2014 Hunger in America and State Report for Georgia found 1 in 7 people in our state are food insecure. That’s an estimated 755,400 people in Georgia who rely on food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families each year. According to EPA’s Excess Food Opportunities Map, resources are available to close this loop in Georgia and create paths toward sustainable food systems.

What steps can we take?

EPD recommends following EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy as a means to prioritize the recovery of wasted food. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including source reduction, donations to feed people, creating animal feed, composting, industrial uses, or as a last resort, sending to combustion facilities or landfills. Other steps include: 

  • Buy local and support Georgia Grown food. Not only will you be reducing your food’s carbon footprint by purchasing fresh food, you'll also be supporting local economies and contributing to the growth of sustainable food systems.
  • Support local food banks. The Georgia Food Bank Association maintains a list of Georgia’s food banks and the counties they serve.

Learn how to reduce wasted food

Additional Resources