One major opportunity is reducing food loss and waste, which alone can reduce methane emissions by 15 per cent by 2030. About a third of the food produced for human consumption is thrown away — that’s 1.3 billion tons, much of which ends up in landfills. Food waste costs the global economy nearly $1 trillion each year and is responsible for squandering almost a quarter of all the water used in agriculture.
It isn’t just an emissions reduction opportunity, it’s also a major development strategy: 690 million people went hungry in 2019 and another 3 billion people couldn’t afford a healthy diet. Halving global food waste at the retail and consumer level and reducing food loss along production and supply chains by 2030 is one of the Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, methane is a key ingredient in the formation of ground-level ozone, a powerful climate forcer and dangerous air pollutant.
“The overall growth in global landfill emissions has been driven by a number of factors, including population growth, economic development, and urbanization in developing countries,” said Alice Alpert, U.S. State Department,. “From a practical perspective, that means that the public health and economic benefits of methane emissions reduction strategies in the waste sector will be experienced locally, from reducing air pollutants from open burning of waste to generating clean, locally available biogas from anaerobic digestion of organic waste diverted from landfills.”
Food waste and loss can be reduced with low-cost strategies such as improving food cold chains, consumer education, and donating excess food. Despite this potential, only 11 countries included food loss in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and none include food waste, said Clementine O’Connor, Programme Management Officer, Sustainable Food Systems at UNEP.
One CCAC partner country making significant progress in the waste sector is Chile. The Canada-Chile Reciclo Organicos Programme will help the country achieve their updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by strengthening their Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) systems and spreading the adoption of low-emissions waste practices through community engagement. A major achievement is Chile’s National Organic Waste Strategy, which aims to increase municipal organic waste recovery from 1 per cent to 66 per cent by 2040 through composting and reducing food waste. It also aims to have half a million families, 5,000 schools, and 500 neighbourhoods composting.
A pilot project in the Maule region of Chile is converting organic waste into fly meal that can be used for dog or salmon food.
There’s still work to do refining these strategies, says Marcelo Mena Carrasco, former Minister of Environment and current Director of the Climate Action Centre at the University of Valparaiso and, including restructuring funding for waste collection and composting so that it’s better distributed across income levels. Currently, two-thirds of homes aren’t paying for waste collection which means that currently these changes can only occur at scale in higher-income neighbourhoods.
Another leader on this front is Medan City. With a population of 2.85 million it is Indonesia’s third largest city and produces almost 2,000 tons of waste per day. That number is increasing as Medan’s population and consumption per capita also grow.T he city’s landfill will be full in the next two to three years.
Medan City set a waste reduction target of 30 per cent, in line with Indonesia’s national target. The CCAC’s Waste Hub is helping the city achieve this, first by carrying out a rapid assessment from 2017-2018 to better understand the local challenges and opportunities of waste management and then developing a work plan based on the findings. The work plan mapped relevant regulations and policies, administrative structure, and made a plan to implement the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle). It found that if Medan City could achieve 100 per cent waste collection and 10 per cent reduction, the city could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 29 per cent. The more ambitious 30 per cent waste reduction target would reduce emissions by 41 per cent. Better waste management would also provide Medan City with co-benefits like improved sanitation and living conditions, and reduced costs from waste.