The North American Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction and Recovery is a project led by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), supported by the federal governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States.The initiative and goal of this project is to improve and develop the capacity at which the industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) sectors across the food supply chain reduce food loss and waste throughout Canada, Mexico and the United States by adopting a circular economy.
This project is part of the climate change and green growth portfolios under the CEC’s2015–2016 Operational Plan, and supports international and domestic commitments and responsibilities in Canada, Mexico and the United States.
Circular economies are designed so that materials are never permanently discarded. Rather, they are reused or recycled into new products to be reintegrated into the market. As one of the largest consumers of the world, Canada has decided to slowly shift to circular economy systems, and the Province of Ontario will be one of the first provinces to do so, as set out in the Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy which was released to the public in February of 2017. This type of resource management will more effectively benefit Canadians, our environment, and the economy, ultimately allowing us to join the rest of the world in the fight against climate change and achieve a zero waste, zero greenhouse gas emissions future.
There are many different types of wastes that are involved in the waste management sector, however within a linear economy, it is significant to address food and organics in particular considering they can be biodegradable, reused and recycled and all human population as well as animals rely on food and organic resources multiple times every day for survival. This causes major concerns because within a linear economy, as resources are wasted leaving very few opportunities for waste prevention.
In 2015, it was estimated that Ontarians generated 3.7 million tonnes of food and organic waste which includes foods that could have been consumed or recycled, as well as inevitable waste such as food scraps and vegetable peelings. About 60% of this was sent to landfill and was not reused or repurposed in any way.
According to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation Organization, the average Canadian consumer throws out an estimated 170 kilograms of food a year and in Canada alone, approximately $31 billion worth of food is wasted annually. This equates to about $868 worth of food wasted per person per year. In comparison of all sectors that are largely responsible for food waste and loss, consumers are held most responsible at approximately 47% of total food waste. The remaining food loss is generated along the supply chain, where food is grown, processed, transported and sold.
In Ontario, the residential sector of consumers generates about 55% of all food and organic waste. In 2015, Ontario’s municipalities recovered over one million tonnesof food and organic waste, including about 480,000 tonnes of green bin waste and 540,000 tonnes of leaf and yard waste. This is a significant recovery rate of approximately 50%.
Entities such as schools, offices, public facilities and hospitals generate food and organic waste as a result of consumers, residents or employees daily activities. For other sectors, the core purpose of the business is developed around food loss and organic waste such as packaging or slaughter facilities. The Industrial, Commercial and Institutional ICI sector generates almost 45% of all food and organic waste in Ontario. In 2015, Ontario’s ICI sector collected and recovered about 400,000 tonnes of food and organic waste. This means that 75% of food and organic waste generated in the IC&I sector is sent for disposal. Significant efforts for our future economy and environment is being implemented in order to prevent, reduce and recover resources.
It is estimated that about 2.3 million tonnes of food and organic waste was sent to disposal in 2015. When these valuable materials end up in a landfill, they contribute to climate change as food and organic waste break down in an oxygen-deprived environment, creating methane.
Food and organic waste being sent to landfill in a linear economical approach is now considered unsustainable, given projected population growth, consumerism at an all-time high and economic trends drastically stressed our environment. These stresses demand more and more landfill space. It is predicted that Ontario will need 16 new or expanded landfills by 2050, if no significant efforts by all residential and ICI sectors helping implement a circular economy.
Canada and in particular Ontario have developed multiple approaches for food rescue and recovery to implement a true circular economy. These approaches were acknowledged across multiple sources, as well as by key stakeholders, academia, governments, ICI associations, foodservice, NGOs, throughout the food supply chain, as promising solutions.
Keeping food and organic waste out of landfills will help battle climate change byreducing greenhouse gas emissions. For example, doubling the province’s current recovery rate of food and organic waste would lead to a reduction of an additional 1.1 mega tonnes in greenhouse gas emissions, which would be equivalent to removing approximately 260,000 cars from Ontario roads each year, and bring us closer to our climate change goals.
To build the province’s circular economy, Ontarians have an individual responsibility to preventing and reducing food and organic waste and collecting and reintegrating the materials that become waste into viable end-markets. To this end, both waste reduction and resource recovery activities are critical. Resources: CEC. 2017. Characterization and Management of Food Loss and Waste in North America. Montreal, Canada: Commission for Environmental Cooperation. 48 pp. Reports on Organic Waste Management in Ontario, prepared for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, 2015.
Written by: Aquilina Abi Daoud Edited by: Angelina Abi Daoud