Food Waste Policy Gap Analysis and Inventory: MidAtlantic, Southeast, and Great Lakes Regions

August 03, 2021


Up to 40 percent of all food in the United States is wasted. Food waste costs the US $408 billion each year. Producing food that we do not consume swallows up roughly 18 percent of America’s cropland and 14 percent of our fresh water, and generates about 270 million metric tons CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions each year, the same as 58 million passenger vehicles. Reducing food waste is a social, economic, and climate imperative.

To further food waste reduction efforts, NRDC surveyed food waste-related policies in twelve states across three regions (corresponding to the states represented in our Food Matters Regional Initiative) and compiled an inventory and gap analysis of existing food waste-related policies for each state, divided into ten categories. The inventories provide a comprehensive overview of policies related to food waste reduction that currently exist across the ten covered categories, and the gap analysis identifies particularly strong policies that can be leveraged to further a city’s food waste reduction goals, as well as advocacy opportunities where policies are weak or nonexistent.

The policy categories represent areas across the food recovery hierarchy, including organics disposal bans and recycling laws; date labeling; food donation liability protections; tax incentives for food rescue; organics processing infrastructure permitting; food safety policies for share tables; food systems plans, goals, and targets; plans targeting solid waste; climate action goals; and grants and incentive programs related to food waste reduction.

In the MidAtlantic we looked at Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.; in the Southeast, we looked at Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee; in the Great Lakes, we looked at Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The goal of these reports is to equip cities, states, and policymakers with a comprehensive overview of their state’s respective policy landscape and how it helps and/or hinders efforts to reduce food waste. Our hope is that these inventories and analysis can provide a comprehensive overview of where individual states have already taken action, and where there are opportunities for additional steps.  

Food Waste