Food Waste

Climate Solution #7

Ensure that all food enterprises (restaurants, grocers, food distributors, etc.) support food security by diverting surplus food away from the landfill. Support food donation nonprofits, community fridges, and other groups to help move surplus food to those in need, prioritizing low-income communities of color. Start a composting program for food that cannot be distributed to those in need.

How it works

Food waste is a major source of climate pollution. Globally, food production accounts for roughly 30% of climate emissions, and in the United States, we waste about 40% of the food we produce. Nationally, we emit the equivalent annual greenhouse emissions of 37 million cars to produce food that is ultimately wasted. Reducing food waste will create big reductions in climate emissions – Project Drawdown estimates that a 50-75% reduction in global food waste by 2050 could save up to 18.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e) as well as help prevent deforestation. 

And food waste alone is the single biggest component of municipal waste streams, accounting for 22% of landfilled waste in the United States! 

Food waste has a major impact on Dallas, too. Our allies at Texas Campaign for the Environment Fund (TCE Fund) released a report showing how a majority of food waste in North Texas is in fact dumped in landfills near communities of color and communities with low access to healthy food. In fact, the City of Dallas’ McCommas Bluff Landfill, where most of our food waste goes, is in a majority Latino and Black area of Southern Dallas where about 75% of residents qualify as both low income and living more than one mile away from a supermarket or grocery store. 

These same communities would benefit from diverting food discards for donation or composting to support community gardens. Instead, they are made to suffer the impacts of landfill-related pollution from decomposing food waste, air pollution, truck traffic, and noise.

In addition to food waste, yard waste is another major source of “organic waste” (yard, food, paper, and other organic materials that decompose), which ends up decomposing in our landfill and generating huge amounts of climate-warming methane gas because Dallas collects yard waste together with bulky trash, making it impossible to separate yard waste to be composted. 

The good news is that cities have a lot of power over what happens to food and yard waste and can create policies that could provide significant support for food donations. Here is what a food and yard waste policy for Dallas that significantly reduces pollution could look like:

  • Food enterprises will create a plan to donate or compost surplus food, beginning with the largest enterprises and expanding to medium-sized and smaller food businesses over time
  • The city will partner with food nonprofits to increase donations to food insecure community members
  • Dallas will create a municipal composting facility
  • The city will separate its residential bulky trash and brush pickup into separate pickups, with a new monthly brush-only pickup.
  • Dallas will establish a “Pay as You Throw” (PAYT) program where residents can save money on their trash pickup by selecting smaller bins

What is Dallas doing about Food Waste now? There’s been a lot of talking but no action. Dallas has been entertaining the idea of creating a food and yard waste policy since it adopted its Zero Waste Plan in 2011. In 2020, the city made such an ordinance an action item in its Climate Action Plan. However, instead of taking action to implement an ordinance, the city is waiting for an update to their solid waste management plan before even drafting a policy according to the May 2021 meeting of the city council’s environment committee.

Other cities like Austin have already implemented comprehensive food waste policies that Dallas can model its program on. There’s no reason to keep delaying.

It’s time for Dallas to stop talking about plans and take action to implement a food waste ordinance now!