Gallery: Food Industry Wages War Against Food Waste

image © Kevin Krejci via Creative Commons
 

In 2009, more than 30 million tons of food was dumped into landfills, making food the most abundant material there by far. This amounts to roughly 200 pounds a year for every single individual in the United States. Throwing away food means we’re losing money, but more importantly we’re also creating unnecessary waste and greatly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. To curb this nationwide problem, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute are launching a mega-campaign that aims to increase donations to food banks and composting practices in order to decrease the amount of food sent to landfills.

A large portion of the food that winds up in landfills is thrown away when it is still completely edible, but has minor blemishes or stores are overstocked. This waste could be avoided easily by donating this food to food banks, but changing consumers’ habits at home will be the real challenge. According to one study, Americans throw away roughly 14 percent of the food they purchase, which translates to about $600 a year for a family of four.

The environmental consequences are just as bad. Rotting food in landfills produces significant quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas that has a warming potential 20 times greater than carbon dioxide. On top of that, the amount of food that gets thrown away accounts for 25 percent of the fresh water that’s used in the U.S., meaning we’re wasting a lot of H2), too.

The first step in the war against food waste will be for the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute to conduct a massive survey of the sources of food waste, from the processors and manufacturers to the distributors to the consumers. “This is not a problem that will be solved in three years,” said Meghan Stasz, a sustainability consultant for GMA, to the New York Times.

After the survey, the committee will identify public policies that could help reduce food waste and increase food donations. Then, the group will identify new technologies and practices that would support goals like increased composting and locating food processors, distributors, and restaurants closer to one another.

While the problem of large scale food waste will be an on-going battle, there are things that you can do in your own home to combat the issue. First and foremost, only buy and prepare the amount of food that you and your family will eat. If you have a surplus of canned goods or produce, donate it to a local food bank. As for your food scraps, you can give them to local farmers to feed their animals or you can begin a home composting system.

Via The New York Times

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3 Comments

  1. francoishurtaud September 20, 2011 at 7:45 am
  2. lazyreader September 19, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Food waste has many uses, even if it were left in a landfill, it’s decomposition to methane is used by operators to generate electricity. More modern landfills adapt this technique. In Las Vegas some resorts take the thrown away food at restaurants and buffets which is mashed into slop for pigs in a farm not to far away. Some of these pigs eat as well as most humans, besides anything a human eats a pig can easily eat. Skip Shapiro Enterprises LLC processes beverage and nonmeat food waste at more than forty locations in North America. If they are a profitable business, there is no reason to think they wouldn’t expand beyond that. Private business has an interesting array of methods for what to do with what we call waste.

  3. caeman September 19, 2011 at 10:35 am

    My food waste has been eaten on by my kids, or the food items spoiled. Neither of which a food bank would want. What other solutions are there for the scrap bits of veggies, fruits and meat that are more environment-friendly?

    This campaign seems like it be more productive to be waged against the grocer’s themselves, when the items are over-stocked or past the legal sale date, but are still good enough to eat.

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