Daily Digest: Murky progress on 2030 UN food waste goal; new energy on cup recycling
In the Daily Digest, the Waste Dive team rounds up insights and moments you may have missed.
WORLD GETS AN INCOMPLETE ON 2030 FOOD WASTE GOAL
Back in 2015, the U.N. established a list of Sustainable Development Goals that included a target to reduce food waste 50% by 2030. The U.S. set its own 2030 goal around that time, and many other governments and corporations have followed suit. Now, all of these players and the world at large are being assessed in a progress report.
The plan originally called for a benchmark of 5% reduction by 2018, with increasing targets along the way, and the report has many bright spots for movement in that direction. It notes countries representing 14% of the world's population have launched goals and initiatives, as well as at least 20% of the world's largest food companies. In some cases, these efforts have exceeded or met benchmark targets.
Yet one glaring admission is clear throughout. No one really knows just how far along the world is in this process because of insufficient baseline data. Given the ongoing challenges of standardized measurement for waste streams in the U.S. and elsewhere, it's not surprising to hear this is an underlying issue.
"Although perfect data are not required to start addressing food loss and waste, without adequate measurement it is impossible to determine whether actions are successful in achieving reduction of food loss and waste," reads the report. With that in mind, the report's authors give the 2018 milestone an "unknown assessment" and note that "developing this information and making it publicly available as soon as possible is a critical gap that needs to be filled."
Few would argue the 2030 SDG goal isn't important — or that there aren't countless examples of good work happening to achieve it at many levels — though this report calls into question whether the feeling of action being reported is more perceptual than tangible. Especially given new projections from the World Bank about global waste growth in developing countries, it's clear time may be running out to reverse current trends. Flashy announcements and investments will be part of that, but their success may be hindered without the more foundational work required.
IN OTHER NEWS
Cup recycling gets new partners, new ideas — Closed Loop Partners
The NextGen Consortium, an initiative backed by Closed Loop Partners' Center for the Circular Economy, has launched a NextGen Cup Challenge to seek out ideas for managing and recycling the estimated 250 billion paper cups used around the world each year. This effort has now been joined by the Coca Cola Company and Yum! Brands, in addition to existing members Starbucks and McDonald's. The World Wildlife Fund is an advisory partner.
A Medium post from Kate Daly, the center's executive director, billed this as part of an initial $10 million phase. The challenge is calling for "designers, businesses, entrepreneurs, students, and more to identify scalable solutions to make cups recyclable and compostable." Up to $1 million has been set aside for the challenges and as many as seven winners will be announced next year to participate in an accelerator program. The challenge requires that any solutions "must be safe, cost competitive and meet consumer expectations, while seeking to maximize sustainable and ethical materials."
$130 million recycling project approved for California's landfill — Noozhawk
The Santa Barbara City Council approved plans for a major waste diversion project that is expected to extend a county-owned and operated landfill's lifespan by 10 years to 2036. Features will include a new anaerobic digester that is expected to be complete by 2020. This project has been under discussion for years, and was originally expected to cost $110 million, but has been held up by legal issues because the original plan included coastal land that is protected under state law. A subsequent environmental lawsuit was settled this summer. As local jurisdictions work to meet state recycling targets it's becoming more common to see these types of complex, and expensive projects, come to fruition.
New map will track Chinese investment in U.S. recycling — Resource Recycling
As Chinese companies start looking for ways to source the recycled feedstock they need for manufacturing — and the country shows no sign of easing up on its import restrictions — there has been an early trend of investment in U.S. infrastructure. Now, Resource Recycling has begun a tracker map to highlight where that is happening. So far, examples include Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina and West Virginia. Other recent Chinese investments not shown on the map — because they don't involve recycled content — include Nine Dragons' purchase of two paper mills in Maine and Wisconsin.
Waste Pro collection worker severely injured in Florida — FlaglerLive
An unidentified Waste Pro collection worker has been hospitalized for a serious injury incurred during residential collection in Palm Coast, Florida. The worker had gotten onto the passenger side step and was holding on to a bar, but slipped under the truck at which point his leg was run over by a wheel. According to FlaglerLive, "After a Waste Pro supervisor surveyed the scene and spoke with the driver, Truck 866 was back on its route, barely 45 minutes after the incident." This is the latest in a series of serious or fatal incidents around the country in September.
Australia eyeing new national recycling targets, post-China — The Sydney Morning Herald
The early draft of a new Australian recycling policy would set the country on a path to divert 80% of waste from landfill and reduce per capita generation 10% by 2030. The plan also includes multiple other goals around cutting down on plastics and reducing food waste. In the meantime, the country's environment minister is expected to introduce new 2025 targets for 70% of plastic packaging to be recycled or composted, and all packaging to contain an average of 30% recycled content. A new standardized recycling label for packaging will also be released.
Australia has been among the hardest hit by China's scrap import policies due to its reliance on exporting. Unlike others, the country appears to be taking more of a proactive regulatory approach than a passive, market-driven one.
ON THE AGENDA
- Webinar: Making the Case for Recycling 201 (2 p.m. EDT). The first of a two-part series developed by RRS for EPA Region 4, this webinar focus on a "Recycling Program Scenario Model" that "can help you to understand different types of recycling collection systems based on your community's data points." Officials from counties in Georgia and North Carolina will also share their experiences.
Do you have events or webinars that should be on our agenda this week? Email [email protected].
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