The Future of Food Waste

June 05, 2012

Some restaurants are fining diners for leaving food on their plates; Massachusetts might ban food waste from businesses. Our view of garbage is changing

Every year, globally, 1.3 billion tons of (still edible) food is discarded, and only 43 percent of all food (intended for consumption) is actually made available for the end consumer, according to the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition.To address the problem, restaurants, some states, and others are beginning to employ policies that involve a fine if food is wasted.

Regulations recently proposed by Massachusetts’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will ban commercial businesses including hotels from discarding food waste; the regulations are expected to be implemented by mid 2014. If implemented, the ban will protect the state's limited disposal capacity, save businesses from having to pay pricey waste disposal fees, and help fuel plants that will generate renewable energy.

According to the UK Daily Mail, Kylin Buffet, a Chinese restaurant in England, is now charging customers approximately $32 if diners leave food on their plates! Stateside, Hayashi Ya, a Japanese restaurant in Manhattan charges diners three percent for not finishing a meal from the all-you-can-eat buffet.

The initiative to eliminate food waste doesn’t stop there. According to Fast Company, MIT PhD candidate Dave Smith and a team of mechanical engineers and nano-technologists at the Varanasi Research Group have designed LiquiGlide, a “super slippery” coating that can be applied to all sorts of food packaging; particularly to the inside of bottles, so that sauces inside easily glide out, leaving virtually no waste. Smith estimates that if every bottle had the coating, they could save about one million tons of food from being trashed every year.

There are many more entities working on eliminating food waste and waste in general – how can you eliminate waste at home and when eating out? Use glass containers as often as possible to store leftovers, yes even at restaurants. Bringing your own reusable containers to the market for bulk items such as nuts and seeds and grains is also an excellent option. Cook with the intention of having leftovers – and if you know you are not going to be home to eat them the following day, place in the freezer for a later date – don’t forget to ID and date what’s inside. Composting food scraps is also a great option.

Food waste is a huge issue and necessitates changes in every step of the food chain. What will you do to lessen the problem?