Farm 2 Fork - Reducing Waste in Food Packaging: Current Programs at the Oregon DEQ


The Department of Environmental Quality is leading several efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of materials across their full life cycle.

Two current initiatives intersect with Oregon’s food industry.

Given the massive climate impacts of food production, coupled with high rates of food waste and loss in the U.S., Governor Brown’s Executive Order 20-04 aims to reduce the wasting of food by 50 percent by 2030.

Working with other states, local governments and industry, DEQ is working to scale up its efforts at food waste prevention through several projects.

A research-based state-wide campaign – I’m a Bad Apple – encourages Oregon households to reduce wasted food in order to avoid wasting money.

An innovative regional program – the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment – brings food industry businesses together in a voluntary, pre-competitive setting to work together to identify solutions to address institutional and systemic causes of food waste.

Packaging also looms large in the public’s concern about the environment. While recycling and composting are generally beneficial, they need to be performed well in order to deliver actual environmental benefits.

Recent research by DEQ illustrates that some recyclable and compostable packaging may actually worsen environmental outcomes, due to higher impacts in what materials are used and how they’re produced. Using less material in the first place may be a superior strategy, even if the materials can’t be recycled.

But at the same time, recycling systems in the U.S. are not living up to their potential, in part due to challenging economics. Oregon will be the first U.S. state to solve this problem with a policy commonly used in other countries: extended producer responsibility.

A recently-adopted state law, the Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act, will require U.S. producers of packaged products sold into Oregon to share in the financial and legal responsibility for a modernized, convenient, and responsible recycling system.

David Allaway has worked at the intersection of waste, materials, and environment for over thirty years.

He is currently a senior policy analyst at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

David has served as an invited science advisor to Wal-Mart’s Packaging Sustainable Value Network and as an advisor to Paul Hawken’s Project Drawdown and the New York Times bestseller Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.

In 2019-2020 he co-chaired Oregon’s Recycling Steering Committee, then worked to develop and advance Oregon’s Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act – comprehensive recycling and producer responsibility legislation which was signed into law in August of 2021.