Food waste is not only created by nearly everyone on the planet but it is also a growing problem worldwide. According to a Refrigeration Design Technologies 2018 report, “Close to a third of the world’s food production is wasted each year, accounting for roughly 1.3 billion tons and nearly $990 billion dollars. In the United States alone, Americans waste $160 billion of that total, which is nearly 30 to 40 percent of the entire U.S. food supply.”
The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way. From the largest corporation to individual households, there are effective ways to stop the creation of a large portion of food waste as well as ways to address the issue, as it currently exists.
Here are 5 best practices everyone can follow to reduce, and even eliminate food waste in the world today.
1. Food Source Reduction
Source reduction is the elimination of waste before it is created. This is the ideal solution for addressing food waste but how is it possible? It’s simple – you just need to break a few habits.
Best Practice for Individuals to Reduce Food Waste:
List It: Stop Food Waste Day found a family of four loses an average of $1500/year in food waste. That’s enough to take the whole family to The Grand Canyon for a week!
Control It: Modify purchasing based on your, or your families, eating habits. Focusing on portion control in the home can effectively prevent and reduce uneaten food. If the kids aren’t digging veggies, cut the portions.
Store It: Practice proper food storage techniques. There are simple ways to ensure good food stays that way until you are ready to eat it.
Save It: Follow simple food handling techniques and use more of the food you buy. For example, carrot shavings and broccoli stems can be used in soup stocks or stale bread can be used for croutons.
Best Practice for Business to Reduce Food Waste:
Audit It: Restaurants and foods service providers should conduct a waste audit. Paying attention to the common waste trends can be a simple way to eliminate waste.
Modify It: Modify menus to prevent and reduce uneaten food. If garnishes are consistently returning to the kitchen to eliminate them.
Store It: Ensure proper restaurant food storage techniques.
Save It: Evaluate production and handling practices to prevent and reduce waste. Businesses, like individual households, can keep those carrot shavings and broccoli stems for soup stocks or crouton their stale loaves of bread.
2. Feed The Hungry
The United Nations reported approximately 793 million people are starving around the world (about 11% of the population). When you consider that much of the food we send to landfill still has nutritious value, diverting it to those in need just makes sense.
How can this be done?
Unspoiled food can be collected and donated. When this happens the hungry are being fed, waste is diverted from landfills, we are supporting the health of our local communities, and ultimately saving money in the process.
Here are a few resources that can help you get excess food to the people who need it most:
- Find Your Local Foodbank
- Food Pantries
- Find a Food Pantry
- Campus Kitchens
- Food Recovery Network
- Rock and Wrap It Up!
3. Feed Animals
Communities can help their local farmers with a simple donation of food. Donations of food, which has been properly and safely handled, can save local farmers money. It can also be useful to donate extra food to zoos or local producers of animal or pet food.
Best Practices for Individuals and Businesses:
Assess It: Determine the kind of foods you will consistently donate and the quantity.
Research It: Because regulations vary in each state (some states ban food donation for animal feed while other states regulate what can be donated) the EPA suggests contacting your local solid waste, county agricultural extension office or public health agency before trying to donate excess food.
For any inedible food (rotten, or expired) there is always the option to compost.
What is composting?
Composting is the combining of certain ratios of organic waste (food waste, yard trimmings, and manure). Compost is extremely useful but it takes time to mature enough to be of the following uses:
- Reduction and some elimination of the need for chemical fertilizer;
- Cost effective remediation of soils contaminated by hazardous waste;
- Capture and elimination of almost 100% of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) contaminating the air; and
- Enhancement of soil water retention.
Here as a resource from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) for easy ways to compost at home.
5. Industrial Use
In addition to providing nourishment for animals and the hungry, excess food can also fuel your car. With fuel costs and concern for the environment on the rise, the need to find alternative means of fuel is growing in the ways of biodiesel and biogas made from anaerobic digestion.
The elimination of food waste is possible and, better yet, simple. Adopting these best practices is a great way to feed the hungry, support the local economy, and save money. So before you toss the food you think is waste ask yourself if there is a better option.
For the complete step-by-step guide to implementing a successful waste and recycling program, click here.