Along the West Coast – from California to British Columbia – governments and businesses are working together to tackle the problem of food waste. They’re identifying where food falls off the path from farm to plate and into the landfill or compost pile, finding ways to collaborate and make changes happen.
This “consortium” of public and private sector called Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC) was created in 2008 to bring together state and local governments to build the low-carbon economy of the future. This includes Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Vancouver, BC, as well as the state of Oregon, Washington, California, and British Columbia.
In 2020, the PCC launched the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment to help the food industry create a less wasteful and more sustainable food system – from farm to final sale. World Wildlife Fund, ReFED, WRAP, and Cascadia Policy Solutions are providing expertise, additional philanthropic funding, and capacity for implementation.
The purpose of the Commitment is to reduce wasted food on the West Coast by 50% by 2030. It brings together local and state government as well as private industry, including more than 1,700 grocery stores across Washington, Oregon, and California.
In the United States, 35% of food goes unsold or uneaten. This has enormous impacts on the environment, consuming cropland, freshwater, and other natural resources, while contributing approximately 4% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste also affects the economy: New estimates put the cost of food waste in the Pacific Coast region alone at more than $65 billion per year, which is shouldered by businesses and consumers alike.
While Portland and other local governments have launched compost programs and worked to divert wasted food from landfills, the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to prevent food from going to waste in the first place.
Note: The term “wasted food” describes food that was not used for its intended purpose. Examples include unsold food from retail stores; plate waste, uneaten prepared food, or kitchen trimmings from restaurants, cafeterias, and households; or byproducts from food and beverage processing facilities. [Source: EPA]
The Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment offers a solution
Businesses commit to target, measure, and act on food waste by:
Supporting the West Coast’s regional goal of reducing and preventing wasted food by 50% by 2030, with an emphasis on prevention-related solutions.
Annually measuring and reporting food waste reduction data for ongoing analysis.
Sharing existing food waste reduction plans and creating and implementing new ones.
The PCC first reached out to grocery stores to sign on to the Commitment because they play a central role in the supply chain, connecting with producers and manufacturers as well as consumers.
Some of the largest retailers in the region have signed the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment, with 1,700 stores across Washington, Oregon, and California, including Albertsons Companies’ West Coast divisions (Albertsons, Safeway), The Kroger Co. (Fred Meyer, QFC), New Seasons Market, Raley’s Markets, Sprouts Markets, and PCC Community Markets.
Bureau of Planning and Sustainability staff member Paul de Block is leading Portland’s participation in the commitment. De Block has spent more than a decade helping Portland businesses to reduce waste and improve sustainability practices, giving him an inside perspective to the challenges and opportunities restaurants, grocery stores, and other food businesses face. This understanding, as well as the relationships he’s built with businesses, allow him to bring multiple perspectives to this issue, including policy development, technical expertise, and on-the-ground experience.
How does this reduce food waste?
This collaborative Commitment effort helps to reduce food waste in several ways, including:
Prevent food waste at scale
Food waste prevention is unachievable without the involvement of influential food businesses, coordination and communication across the region, and the sharing of implementation costs among city, state, and philanthropic funding sources.
Identify common problems, collaborating on solutions
Working groups composed of business/industry signatories, government jurisdictions, and engagement partners (e.g., trade bodies and technical experts) are the backbone of the project, facilitating ongoing dialogue and sharing insights and best practices. They identify common challenges and brainstorm the means for overcoming them. Pilot projects are developed, tested, and then implemented more broadly.
The ReFED Grocery Retail Calculator
To reduce food waste, data is needed to establish a baseline for improvement, monitor progress, identify hotspots for action, and highlight successes that can be replicated (as illustrated by ReFED’s Insight Engine interactive tool).
To ensure that food business signatories have access to the insights they need to guide their efforts, the PCC released the ReFED Grocery Retail Calculator for streamlined data collection, analysis, and reporting. The calculator provides an easy way for retailers to upload waste-related data in a standardized format across stores and businesses. Moving forward, calculators will be developed for additional sectors, starting with manufacturing in 2021.
In addition to more grocers, the PCC is currently recruiting food manufacturers and will soon be adding even more food industries as signatories to the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment.