Food Waste, A Lost Opportunity

According to the FWRA (Food Waste Reduction Alliance), 60 million tons of food waste is generated in the US every year. Jonathan Bloom who wrote American Wasteland, looks at food waste throughout the entire US food system and estimated food waste at $250 billion a year. Households contribute $180 billion of this total and supermarkets $15 billion, a lot of money to throw in the trash can and bury in a landfill!

Why should the fresh produce industry care?

Apart from the inequity of discarding good food when many in the US go to bed hungry every night, there are a number of other compelling reasons why the fresh produce industry needs to engage with organizations such as the FWRA.

The ripple effect of food waste impacts widely. Strained waste streams, impoverished energy systems, reduced resource availability (land, water, labor or fuel), degraded ecosystems, polluted environments or social unrest are just some of challenges that can be linked to this phenomenon. Many of these in turn translate into invisible costs on society and business, of which we are all a part.

It starts with a change in mind-set

The very first thing to do is to stop seeing food scraps as waste, but rather as a resource that holds nutritional, raw material, energy and composting benefits. Next, explore the dollar value that could be extracted by looking at food waste under these resource headings.

This shift in mindset while important also needs to be coupled to an education plan that emphasizes the root causes of the problem, rather than dealing with the symptoms. It all begins with a thorough understanding of the supply chain and the dynamics that drive the demand for a particular product.

The next step is to understand how the behavior and decisions of each of the players in the supply chain reduce or magnify food waste, along with quantifying the magnitude of their actions in financial terms.

Success stories

There is no better way to demonstrate how a positive view on food waste, a clear understanding of the supply chain and behavior of supply chain partners can enhance the bottom line and unlock new opportunities for a company than by sharing a few success stories.

For Kroger, the food waste generated by its 300 Ralph’s and Food4Less stores in California until recently represented a major cost. The 150 tons a food waste generated by these stores used to incur large trucking and waste disposal fees, but this is no longer the case. Today food waste provides cheap, clean energy for its Compton, CA distribution center. This is all thanks to an anaerobic digester that has been installed on site which uses the food waste as fuel to produce biogas to produce power.

Similarly, Gills Onions installed a waste to energy system as far back as 2009 to convert all its daily onion waste into energy and cattle feed. Their advanced energy recovery system was in fact the first food processing facility in the world to convert up to 300,000 pounds of daily waste into usable products and reduce the company reliance on outside energy sources, saving $700,000 a year in utility fees. Additional savings come in the form of reduced labor and haulage costs estimated at $400,000.00 a year. There is also a reduced environmental impact because the company carbon footprint is greatly reduced.

Lastly, the story of Doug Rauch is worth mentioning. The ex-president of Trader Joe’s is currently working on a project called the Daily Table, which is putting together a new food delivery system to under serviced inner city residents, with food previously destined for the landfill.

Since a large portion of food is tossed because it has reached its sell by date, Rauch wants to re-purpose this food for human consumption, since most is still perfectly good to eat. The Daily Table will be part restaurant, part grocery store, ensuring what is on offer is still safe and nutritious. This is certainly an innovative way to reduce food waste, create jobs and benefit the community!

So, rather than seeing food waste as a problem, let FreshXperts help you uncover new sources of revenue from what you were previously throwing away.

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Andrew Southwood

Andrew Southwood

I am drawn to the fresh produce industry because it is a vibrant, ever changing, demanding, stimulating and essential part of daily life, that is filled with amazing people who are set to rise to the challenge of feeding 10 billion people by 2050!


Andrew Southwood
Author: Andrew Southwood
I am drawn to the fresh produce industry because it is a vibrant, ever changing, demanding, stimulating and essential part of daily life, that is filled with amazing people who are set to rise to the challenge of feeding 10 billion people by 2050!