$33 For Food Waste

The Lempert Report
February 01, 2023

Phil: So let's talk about waste. We all know the numbers about waste. Every story that comes out talks about waste, waste, waste, but there's some new innovations about waste that we wanna share with you. Number one is a new product called the mill bin. It turns, this is in your home. It turns ordinary food scraps into chicken feed. It's an electric kitchen waste bin. It shrinks and distincts the typical kitchen food scraps over a course of several hours, turning them into usable food grounds. They're then returned back to Mill, they send you a box, you can return 'em back, and it's processed into chicken feed and sent to different farms. What do you think about this idea? 

Sally: Well, Phil, with more and more people wanting to get on board with helping to preserve the environment and to, you know, to do their part I think it's a great idea. The, you know what I'm, what I'm curious about what you think is about the price point of this, how consumers are gonna react to this, because what, what you've gotta do is if you sign up for a year it's $33 a month, so $369 you would pay upfront that gets you the machine that you put in your house. You operate it through an, an app on your phone. And then it also gets you the, the prepaid shipping containers to send back to mill your compost. If you don't go on a yearly plan and you wanna go month to month, it's a little bit more expensive. I think it's a $45 a month for that. So what I'm wondering is do shoppers have that in their budget right now? You know, they're being crunched to the grocery store, and so can we expect them to fork out another $33 a month to a and the time to box up compost and send it back? 

Phil: Yeah, and, and there's a couple things. Number one is yes, I agree with you. The 33 bucks a month is a red flag for me for a lot of consumers. And again, keep in mind that, that a product like this is really designed for those people who aren't composting now. So it's not the diehards. These are, these are the people who care about the environment, don't know what to do. So you're not having a very committed audience, number one. Number two, the first thing that I heard when I heard about 33 bucks, they're also selling it back to farms. So they're making money from you and I, and they're making money from the farm that's selling it to it. I think it's an interesting idea. We'll see if it works. I, what I'd really like to see is I'd like to see them, you know, work with the government and give people some kind of tax credit for doing this. 

Phil: Let it let it come off of our income taxes where that $396 a year is really given back to us so we can feel good about it. And it's not coming out of our pocket at the same time we also see a new study that just came out from Ohio State University. And what they're doing when it comes to waste is estimating the best large scale uses for food processing waste. What they're doing is analyzing the contents of the waste, then proposing production opportunities that range from sustainable fuels, biogas, and electricity to useful chemicals and organic fertilizer. So what, what they're doing is really determining the value of the waste and then helping people figure out how to make money off it. One example from Ohio State is that they turn eggshells and tomato peels that are sourced from Ohio food producers into fillers that go into rubber products, partially replacing the petroleum based carbon black in tires. So, you know, I think it's a really cool idea. I think it's probably just in the beginning stages of it. And again, I just wonder how this, this can really reach commercial levels. 

Sally: Yes. And it is a great start. I believe, you know, knowing what the, the uses of, and what the value can be in certain types of waste. And also, you know, maybe it's a start to encouraging food manufacturers, retailers, you know, to get involved in a way where they are not spending their resources and their money to help the planet, but they're actually getting something out of it themselves.

Phil: So the National Resources Defense Council, their food matter initiatives is expanding. What's that all about? 

Sally: They have a great program. The Food Matters Initiative launched in 2015, but I guess it's just now getting, you know, it's really getting going here. And they're, they're, they're offering to cities that have a population over 200,000 to apply for this program that will give them the technical assistance they need, to develop strategies around food waste production. Now, this can include estimating food waste generation, assisting with food waste reduction planning, messaging and funding proposals, facilitating city support for edible food recovery programs and expanding community composting. So this is happening in Cincinnati. I've read it's happening in Phoenix. Two great cities that I'm not surprised are, are getting involved in something like this. So yeah, we all need to try and get our mayors to get on board. 

Phil: Absolutely. And good, good for NDRC. They're, they're always doing fabulous programs. Our food world is about to get more confusing. We come up with all these new diets, we come up with all these labels of consumers, we try to segment people. And now there's some new phrases coming out. Climavore. Reducatarian, we've heard before, but it looks like all these new terms are really focused on Gen Z, millennials and frankly the environment. Basically a report from the consulting firm, Kearney came out and saying, by 2030, our food routine choices will be climate directed. They're much less concerned about taste, but it's all about climate. What do you think about that and what do you think, you know, is the industry gonna really embrace this? 

Sally: Well, I think that, you know, some, some companies feel, you know, we're seeing are embracing this. There are restaurant chains like Just Salad, Chipotle, and Panera Bread that are using carbon labels now on their food. Some that are adding Climatarian as a filter on their apps if you want to filter out items in that way. And so it does seem that some of these terms are taking off. Now they can get a little confusing because you're not, you know, there's so many that you don't know which one means what. But I think the premise is basic for all of them. You know, that they all, that they all are about not focusing on on the ingredients, but focusing on if those foods support a healthier planet. So, you know, it's not about not eating meat, but maybe you're eating pasture raised meat. That's kind of how it works. What I'm curious to see is if there's a lot of companies that end up doing some greenwashing and kind of taking advantage of this situation and misleading consumers to believe that their products are actually fulfilling these claims. 

Phil: Absolutely. And that, that's always an issue that we've got. The New York Times talks about one in particular that's trending. Regenavore, which is the latest and hottest eating label according to the times. And what it means is a new generation wants food from companies that are actively healing the planet through carbon reducing agriculture, more rigorous animal welfare policies and equitable treatment of the people who grow and process foods. So clearly we're gonna start to see more labels than ever before.