The Los Angeles-based Climate Action Reserve (CAR), an offset registry for the North American carbon market, has adopted a new standard that aims to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) from a significant methane source in the U.S. — food waste. The Organic Waste Composting (OWC) Project Protocol provides guidelines for developing carbon offset projects and generating offset credits, which can be traded in the carbon market, by diverting food waste from landfills to composting operations.

Local governments and other parties that initiate composting projects can use the OWC Project Protocol to register GHG reductions with CAR. The protocol provides eligibility rules, methods to calculate reductions, performance-monitoring instructions, and procedures for reporting project information. Additionally, all project reports receive annual, independent verification by ISO-accredited and CAR-approved verification bodies. The protocol is "designed to ensure the complete, consistent, transparent, accurate, and conservative quantification and verification of GHG emission reductions associated with organic waste composting projects," according to the protocol document.

The OWC Project Protocol creates a financial incentive to mitigate the amounts of methane emitted from food waste, and it provides "an affordable and realistic opportunity for people outside of the traditional carbon market to become involved," Linda Adams, chair of CAR's Board of Directors and secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement. "It is surprising for many people when they discover the environmental damage that can be done by the food we throw away," Adams said.

Currently, an estimated 2.5 percent of food waste is composted, according to CAR. Food waste that is not composted typically gets deposited in a landfill where it rapidly decomposes under anaerobic conditions and creates significant amounts of methane, which is over 21 times more potent to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Food waste sources include municipalities, schools, grocery stores, restaurants, food wholesale distributors and public venues, all of which could participate in the OWC protocol by diverting waste from the landfill to a composting operation.

Download a copy of the OWC Project Protocol.

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