Trimming Back on Costly Food Waste

Articles
December 09, 2008

Trimming Back on Costly Food Waste

Grandmas were right when they admonished: “Don’t waste what you won’t eat.” Stores, restaurants and other large facilities understand her Depression-driven directive today because they pay a lot to dispose of food waste, and they know their businesses and the communities in which they operate will be better off if they cut down on surprisingly large amounts of unnecessary trash. How much? About 30% of food in the U.S. is wasted at a $48 billion annual cost, according to a Stockholm Water Institute study issued in the summer. An earlier study, from the University of Arizona in 2004, estimated the waste at 40% to 50%, reported the Houston Chronicle. Motivated by high food price inflation, institutions not only want to track and organize their waste better (food waste costs less to haul than regular trash), but they want food to go to be consumed rather than reach the waste stream. At Virginia Tech University, for instance, two of the largest dining halls on campus eliminated cafeteria trays to encourage freshmen to take less food on each trip to the buffet line. The outcome: 38% less food waste, Denny Cochrane, manager of VT’s sustainability program, told the Houston Chronicle.

Grandmas were right when they admonished: “Don’t waste what you won’t eat.”

Stores, restaurants and other large facilities understand her Depression-driven directive today because they pay a lot to dispose of food waste, and they know their businesses and the communities in which they operate will be better off if they cut down on surprisingly large amounts of unnecessary trash.

How much? About 30% of food in the U.S. is wasted at a $48 billion annual cost, according to a Stockholm Water Institute study issued in the summer. An earlier study, from the University of Arizona in 2004, estimated the waste at 40% to 50%, reported the Houston Chronicle.

Motivated by high food price inflation, institutions not only want to track and organize their waste better (food waste costs less to haul than regular trash), but they want food to go to be consumed rather than reach the waste stream. 

At Virginia Tech University, for instance, two of the largest dining halls on campus eliminated cafeteria trays to encourage freshmen to take less food on each trip to the buffet line.  The outcome: 38% less food waste, Denny Cochrane, manager of VT’s sustainability program, told the Houston Chronicle.

A three-year-old program to install food-only trash cans at Portland International Airport in Oregon is being rejuvenated with new signage. The Chronicle’s research indicates that the airport’s food waste costs $48 a ton to take to the city landfill versus $82 for regular trash, and in 2007, the program diverted 165 tons of food from the trash stream. Stan Jones, aviation environmental compliance manager at the airport is also trying to persuade on-site restaurants to use more biodegradable plates and silverware, the paper reported.

The lessons in these efforts should be clear to grocers, as they prepare home meal replacements, baked goods, dairy and other private-label foods in their own commissaries and manufacturing plants, believes SupermarketGuru.com.  A store-by-store approach that involves proper waste stream programs in the break rooms, as well as timely food rotation in perimeter departments and center-store shelves will also contribute significantly to safer, greener, more cost-efficient outlets.