Food and organic waste

Last updated on August 31, 2022

Approximately, one-third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted every year (FAO, 2011). In B.C., organic waste currently represents 40% of material sent to our landfills.

As this material decomposes, it generates a significant level of greenhouse gases which increases global warming and contributes to climate change. Further, when food is lost or wasted so are the resources that are required to grow, manufacture and distribute it. This equates to a global carbon footprint of approximately 4.4 billion tonnes of CO2 annually (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2015). 

In a circular economy, when food and organic waste does occur, it is not sent to the landfill.  Instead, it is used as a valuable resource for communities. Discover how the B.C. government is working to prevent, divert and regulate food and organic wastes.

Organic waste generally refers to biodegradable, compostable waste from homes, businesses, institutions, and industrial sources. Examples include food scraps, yard and garden trimmings, food-soiled paper products and biosolids.

Food waste refers to food that is intended for human consumption that is discarded without ever being eaten. It is estimated that currently, one-third of all food grown for human consumption ends up being wasted and 63 percent of food Canadians throw away could have been eaten (National Zero Waste Council, 2017).

Preventing Food & Organic Waste

Everyone can play a role in reducing food waste. Often with minimal effort, food waste can be prevented, saving money and helping to protect the environment. While composting food waste is better than sending it to the landfill, preventing food from being wasted in the first place is the best solution.

Find out what the province, local governments, and other organizations have done to prevent food waste in their area - this might inspire new ideas about programs that could be implemented in your community.

Diverting Organic Waste

Disposing of food and organic waste in landfills not only wastes valuable nutrients and takes up precious landfill space but also creates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Instead organic waste diversion initiatives process and beneficially use organic waste, returning the nutrients back to the soil for ongoing soil health and fertility. When handled properly, organic waste can become a valuable resource for communities, such as nutrient-rich compost.

To further support the waste diversion objectives, the B.C. Government has launched the CleanBC Organic Infrastructure and Collection Program to provide funding assistance to increase organic waste diversion from landfills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the province. 

For details on the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy’s previous Organic Infrastructure Program (now closed to applications), please visit the Organics Infrastructure Program webpage.

Learn more about what jurisdictions locally and internationally are doing:

Regulating Organic Waste

The Organic Matter Recycling Regulation (OMRR) regulates the production and land application of compost and biosolids

Learn more about how B.C. regulates organics and get information about ongoing improvement efforts.