Food waste management has become a habit for many people worldwide: buying extra food than we need at supermarkets, eating bigger portions than we can consume, or allowing fruits and vegetables to decay at home. According to the FAO, food waste is “food fit for human consumption that is abandoned. Whether it is kept over its expiration date or allowed to decay.
The most crucial element of food waste management is minimizing edible food waste at large. Food waste tracking hasn’t always been a concern for many kitchens. Per Market Research Future’s report, the food waste management market is estimated to touch USD 61.12 billion in revenue and grow at a CAGR of 5.80% by 2030.
Hospitality firms need a solid food waste tracking system to reduce their carbon impact and save money. Technology has ushered in a new era of food waste control, with software often combined with hardware to meet the demanding kitchen environment.
Reducing food waste is critical in a world where millions face hunger daily. Most people are unaware of how much food they are wasting and, as a result, how much money they are wasting.
Even if they realize it, most cooks rely on inadequate food waste tracking records, which consume necessary employee time and result in inaccurate data, causing most businesses to underestimate their food waste vastly.
What Sustainable Food Waste Management Is All About
Sustainable food waste management is a systematic approach that seeks to reduce wasted food and its associated impacts over the entire life cycle. Starting with the use of natural resources, manufacturing, sales, and consumption and ending with decisions on recovery or final disposal. EPA works to promote innovation and highlight the value and food efficiency.
Particularly, in terms of the management of food as a resource. Through the sustainable management of food, we can help businesses and consumers save money, and provide a bridge in our communities for those who do not have enough to eat. As well as those who do not have enough to conserve resources for future generations.
Building on the familiar concept of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” this approach shifts the view on environmental protection and more fully recognizes the impacts of the food we waste. The term “wasted food” describes food that was not used for its intended purpose and is managed in a variety of ways, such as a donation to feed people, the creation of animal feed, etc.
As well as composting, anaerobic digestion, or sending to landfills or combustion facilities. Examples include unsold food from retail stores. In addition to the plate waste, uneaten prepared food, kitchen trimmings from restaurants, cafeterias, and households; or by-products from food and beverage processing facilities. EPA uses the overarching term “wasted food.”
That’s instead of “food waste” for food that was not used for its intended purpose. Obviously, it conveys that a valuable resource is being wasted, whereas “food waste” implies that the food no longer has value and needs to be managed as waste.
Food Waste Management Vs Food Loss
The term “wasted food management” describes food that was not used for its intended purpose and is managed in a variety of ways, such as a donation to feed people, creation of animal feed, composting, anaerobic digestion, or sending to landfills or combustion facilities.
They are the two most common types of food waste. Food loss is a broader term that refers to any consumable food that goes half-eaten at any point. This comprises food ruined during delivery, harvests left in the field, and any other food that does not make it to a store, in addition to uneaten food in households and businesses.
The USDA’s Economic Research Service defines food waste as “food discarded by merchants due to unconventional appearance or coloration, as well as plate waste by consumers.” Half-eaten meals left on a restaurant plate, food scraps from preparing a meal at home, and sour milk flushed down the drain are all examples of food waste.
Consider the following:
- Excess food refers to food that is recovered and donated to feed people.
- Food waste refers to food such as plate waste (i.e., food that has been served but not eaten), spoiled food, or peels and rinds considered inedible that are sent to feed animals, to be composted or anaerobically digested, or to be landfilled or combusted with energy recovery.
- Food loss refers to unused products from the agricultural sector, such as unharvested crops.
From farm production to final consumption, food loss and waste occur at every worldwide food value chain stage. Land transformation and biodiversity loss, energy use, greenhouse emissions, water, and chemical use are all linked herein.
During the post-harvest and handling stages, there is waste in each stage of the transport, storage, processing, and distribution phases. Final consumption (both commercial and home) accounts for up to 40% of food losses after the food supply chain. According to evidence, food is ultimately wasted in developed countries’ final consumer step of the supply chain.
Food waste management, which refers to all efforts to avoid, reduce, or recycle waste along with the consumption and production chain, has become a top priority. This begs the question of whether food waste may also be decreased throughout the food supply chain.
Why Sustainable Food Waste Management Is Important
Wasted food is a growing problem in our modern society and an untapped opportunity. In 2018 alone, EPA estimates that about 63 million tons of wasted food were generated in the commercial, institutional, and residential sectors, with about 32 percent being managed by animal feed, bio-based materials/biochemical processing, codigestion/anaerobic digestion, composting, donation, land application, and sewer/wastewater treatment.
EPA estimated that in 2018 in the United States, more food reached landfills and combustion facilities than any other single material in our everyday trash, at 24 percent of the amount landfilled and at 22 percent of the amount combusted with energy recovery. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimatesthat in 2010, 31 percent or 133 billion pounds of the 430 billion pounds of food produced was not available for human consumption at the retail and consumer levels (i.e., one-third of the food available was not eaten).
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated in 2011 that approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption worldwide is lost or wasted. Taking simple steps in your everyday life can make a difference in addressing this issue. Reducing wasted food is a triple win; it’s good for the economy, communities, and for the environment.
A. Saving Money
An additional 1 billion people around the world are at risk of not affording a healthy diet if a shock caused their incomes to reduce by one-third. Furthermore, food costs could increase for up to 845 million people if a disruption to critical transport links were to occur.
When we waste food, we’re not just creating a problem, we’re also missing an opportunity to save the majority of money:
- Pay Less for Trash Pickup – Organizations might pay less for trash pickup by keeping wasted food out of the garbage. Some haulers lower fees if wasted food is separated from the trash and sent to a compost facility instead of the landfill.
- Receive Tax Benefits by Donating – If you donate healthy, safe, and edible food to hungry people, your organization can claim tax benefits. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act protects food donors from legal liability.
- Waste Less and Spend Less – If you or your organization can find ways to prevent waste in the first place, you can spend less by buying only the food you will use. Preventing wasted food can also reduce energy and labor costs associated with throwing away good food.
B. Helping People
The economic fallout of the COVID-19 Pandemic, climate variability and extremes, conflict, and the persistence of hunger and malnutrition have shown us that now is the time for us to build more resilient agrifood systems. Thus, preventing wasted food and recovering wholesome, nutritious food can help you make a difference in your community.
Overall, if we don’t, agrifood systems will not be able to ensure food availability to all as well as physical and economic access to nutritious foods that make up healthy diets.
Consider the following:
- Feed People, Not Landfills – Instead of feeding landfills, we should be feeding people in our communities. You can donate a variety of foods to many different types of organizations. Contact Feeding America or your local food rescue organizations for information about where you can donate and what types of food your local organization is able to accept.
- Feed Children – In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture National School Lunch Program provided nutritionally balanced, low-cost, or free lunches to more than 31 million children each school day. By redirecting food that would otherwise be wasted to homes and schools, we can help feed our country’s children.
- Create Job Opportunities – Recovering and recycling wasted food through donation, salvaging, processing, industrial reuse, and composting strengthens infrastructure and creates jobs. Food recycling in these sectors employs more than 36,000 people, supporting local economies and promoting innovation.
- Feed the World – According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, from 2012 to 2014 there were about 805 million hungry people on earth. They predict that by eliminating food loss and wasted food we would have enough food to feed all the chronically undernourished. They also expect that we wouldn’t have to increase food production or put additional pressure on our natural resources to do so.
C. Conserving Resources
Reducing wasted food does great things for the environment:
- Reduce Methane from Landfills – When food goes to the landfill, it’s similar to tying food in a plastic bag. The nutrients in the food never return to the soil. The wasted food rots and produces methane gas.
- Save Resources – Wasted food wastes the water, gasoline, energy, labor, pesticides, land, and fertilizers used to make the food. When we throw food in the trash, we’re throwing away much more than food.
- Return Nutrients to the Soil – If you can’t prevent, reduce or donate wasted food, you can compost. By sending food scraps to a composting facility instead of to a landfill or composting at home, you’re helping make healthy soils. Adding compost to gardens, highway construction sites, and poor soils make great things happen. Properly composted organics (wasted food and yard waste) improve soil health and structure, improve water retention, support more native plants, and reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides.
On 29 September 2020, we celebrate the first observance of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. It also comes during the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought about a wake-up call on the need to transform and rebalance the way our food is produced and consumed. Wasting less, eating better, and adopting a sustainable lifestyle are key to building a world free of hunger. Little changes to our daily habits can make a huge global impact. Take action. Stop food loss and waste. For the people and for the planet!
D. Global Subject
Diversity – in production, output markets, import sources, and supply chains – was a key resource during the pandemic because it created multiple pathways for absorbing the shock. Food waste influences every country on the planet and hurts climate change. Greenhouse gases are created at every step of the food chain, and mainly methane is released when organic waste is placed in a landfill.
When you consider the 800 million people who do not have food to eat in the same manner that developed countries have, as well as the many people in rich countries who are food insecure, food waste becomes an ethical concern. To end world hunger, we must drastically reduce the food lost in our system.
Diversity In Agrifood Systems
Before food reaches our plates, it travels a long way. It’s every stage of that journey – from harvest to consumption – that makes up our agrifood systems. They involve a set of interlinked activities that encompass farming, processing, transporting, eating, and more. So, how can we protect our agrifood systems from shocks and stresses and better ensure nutritious food is available to all?
In other words, how can we make our agrifood systems resilient? In order for us to start understanding agrifood systems, first, let’s look at what agrifood systems are. Before food reaches our plates, it travels a long way. It’s every stage of that journey – from harvest to consumption – that makes up our agrifood systems.
They involve a set of interlinked activities that encompass farming, processing, transporting, eating, and much more. And, although often complex and international in scope, agrifood systems have three main components: primary production, food distribution through food supply chains and transport networks, and household consumption.
Diversity of primary production
Primary production diversity provides resilience during extreme weather and other shocks, such as pests and diseases. It can better protect the environment against soil deterioration, nutrient depletion, and biodiversity loss.
Diversity of food supply chains
Allowing a mix of supply chains – including modern, traditional, and local chains – can act as a buffer against shocks. For example, many local supply chains, often based on small-scale producers and small and medium agri-food enterprises, proved to be nimble in their responses to COVID-19.
Diversity of food availability
Diversity of food availability from domestic production, stocks, and imports are key in the face of output failures. It provides multiple sources of adequate food supplies. It also contributes to dietary diversity, which underpins food security and nutrition.
Diversity of transport networks
Agrifood systems that are better connected, through robust and redundant food transport networks, provide more options once a disruptive event occurs.
From farmers to truck drivers and beyond, agrifood systems involve many actors operating across different components. Shocks or stresses in any of these components can spread rapidly throughout systems and threaten the functioning of supply chains and the food security and nutrition of consumers.
We know that any challenges to Agrifood Systems can affect large numbers of people. Currently, 41.9% of the global population is unable to afford a healthy diet. That’s over 3 billion people. Resilient Agrifood Systems are key to ensuring that even greater numbers of people do not lose access to healthy diets.
For governments and policymakers, this can be achieved by:
- ensuring diversity of food sources (from domestic production to imports and existing stocks), and food supply chain actors;
- managing connectivity, such as through the creation of robust food transport networks;
- providing a longer-term development perspective that raises incomes;
- improving productivity and efficiency to lower the cost of nutritious foods;
- supporting livelihoods with gender and nutrition-sensitive social protection programs.
For a healthy diet, either the cost of food must come down, or the incomes of the vulnerable population must increase or be supported through, for example, social protection programs – or, ideally, both. In addition, the resilience of rural low-income households can be significantly strengthened through education, non-farm employment, and cash transfers.
Making Agrifood Systems more resilient to shocks and stresses shows how, through resilient Agrifood Systems, it’s possible to provide affordable, healthy diets for all.
From school nutrition to soil biodiversity and beyond, FAO’s interactive stories give you an engaging, close-up look at important issues affecting food and agriculture around the world.
The Primary Food Waste Sources And Ways To Curb Them
Food is thrown out for numerous reasons, beginning with the supply chain’s early stages. Food waste occurs before it reaches a commercial kitchen due to processing difficulties, overproduction, and volatile markets. Kitchen management contributes to food waste via overbuying products, poor planning, and an oversupply of food once it arrives.
According to estimates, pre-consumer waste accounts for over 66 percent of food waste in professional kitchens, while post-consumer waste accounts for 34 percent. Anaerobic digestion plants, which convert waste into renewable power, are possible for the last stage. However, reducing surplus food at the outset is preferable to converting surplus food into energy.
So, how Can food waste management be curbed? Well, any real change in the war against food wastage can only begin on an individual level. For example, we should all try and keep our soils and water clean. Some household waste is potentially hazardous and should never be thrown in a regular rubbish bin.
Items such as batteries, paints, mobile phones, medicine, chemicals, fertilizers, tires, ink cartridges, etc. can seep into our soils and water supply, damaging the natural resources that produce our food. Once a week, try eating a meal based on pulses or ‘ancient’ grains like quinoa. That said, below are some of the other ways we can play our part:
1. Adopt a more sustainable, healthier diet
Preparing nutritious meals in today’s fast-paced world might be difficult, but delicious food doesn’t have to be complicated. There are many simple, healthy recipes on the internet that you can enjoy with your friends and family and use to cook meals responsibly. Planning your meals by making a shopping list and sticking to it can help avoid impulse shopping.
Likewise, we should also put our food waste management strategy into use. For instance, we can freeze it or use it as an element in another dish if we don’t eat everything we cook. If we’re returning nutrients to the soil by composting food scraps instead of discarding them away while lowering our carbon impact. You should also try to use less water.
We can’t produce food without water! While it’s important that farmers use less water to grow food, reducing food waste also saves all the water resources that went into producing it. Reduce your water intake in other ways too: fixing leaks or turning off the water while brushing your teeth! Always remember, that sharing is also caring.
Meaning, that you can donate food that would otherwise be wasted. For example, Apps can connect neighbors with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away.
2. Back Local Food Manufacturers
By purchasing local goods, you support small businesses and local farmers in your area. This also reduces pollution by reducing truck and other vehicle delivery distances. By the same token, we should also preserve our soils and water sources. Some household waste is hazardous and should never be discarded in a regular rubbish bin. These items can damage the natural resources that produce our food by seeping into our soils and water supply.
In addition. we should also accept the ugly produce. Don’t judge food by its appearance, as its shape or appearance in many cases does not impact its flavor and nutrient count. Bruised or oddly-shaped fruits and veggies are often rejected because they don’t meet random cosmetic standards. Use mature fruit for other consumption purposes. Keep fish populations afloat!
As such, eat fish species that are more abundant, such as mackerel or herring, rather than those that are at risk of being overfished, like cod or tuna. Buy fish that has been caught or farmed sustainably, such as eco-labeled or certified fish.
3. Stock Food Sensibly
Older products should be in the front of the cupboard or refrigerator, while newer products should go in the rear. To keep open food fresh in the fridge, use airtight containers and seal packets to prevent insects from getting in. What about zero global waste? To achieve our mutual goal of zero global food waste, we must promote collaboration between foodservice suppliers and other enterprises, non-profits, and institutional players.
Closer collaboration emphasizes bringing together various stakeholders, merging innovation, and generating and adopting innovations more efficiently. If the situation is ever to improve, additional research, tools, and concepts are needed to build the creative practices that will enable the next wave of food waste management strategy.
EPA encourages anyone managing wasted food to reference the Food Recovery Hierarchy. When the higher levels of the hierarchy are no longer feasible, then the food waste left over should be put to beneficial use such as composted or sent to be broken down through anaerobic digestion. Additional resources on wasted food can be found at Further with Food: Center for Food Loss and Waste Solutions
4. Buy only what you need
Plan your meals. Make a shopping list and stick to it, and avoid impulse buys. Not only will you waste less food, but you’ll also save money! Another way is to adopt a healthier, more sustainable diet. Life is fast-paced and preparing nutritious meals can be a challenge, but healthy meals don’t have to be elaborate. The internet is full of quick healthy recipes that you can share with your family and friends. You should also try and pick on the ugly fruit and vegetables.
Meaning, that you don’t judge food by its appearance! Oddly-shaped or bruised fruits and vegetables are often thrown away because they don’t meet arbitrary cosmetic standards. Don’t worry – they taste the same! Use mature fruit for smoothies, juices, and desserts. And, then again, in whatever you do, make sure that you always respect food.
Food connects us all. Re-connect with food by knowing the process that goes into making it. Read about food production and get to know your farmers. As you also support local food producers. By buying local produce, you support family farmers and small businesses in your community. You also help fight pollution by reducing delivery distances for trucks and other vehicles.
5. Store food wisely by understanding the labels
First of all, move older products to the front of your cupboard or fridge and new ones to the back. Use airtight containers to keep open food fresh in the fridge and ensure packets are closed to stop insects from getting in. Secondly, make sure that you understand food labeling. There’s a big difference between “best before” and “use-by” dates.
Sometimes food is still safe to eat after the “best before” date, whereas it’s the “use-by” date that tells you when it is no longer safe to eat. Check food labels for unhealthy ingredients such as trans fats and preservatives and avoid foods with added sugar or salt. And then, start small. Take smaller portions at home or share large dishes at restaurants.
What about the love for leftovers? Well, if you don’t eat everything you make, you can freeze it for later or use the leftovers as an ingredient in another meal. Instead of throwing away your food scraps, compost them. This way you are giving nutrients back to the soil and reducing your carbon footprint.
For many people in the world, food waste management has become a habit. Buying more food than we need at markets, letting fruits and vegetables spoil at home, or taking larger portions than we can eat. These habits put extra strain on our natural resources and damage our environment. When we waste food, we waste labor, effort, investment, resources, etc.
Like water, seeds, feed, etc.) that go into producing it, not to mention the resources that go into transporting and processing it. In short, wasting food increases greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to climate change. It’s a big problem. In fact, worldwide, tonnes of edible food is lost or wasted every day. More so, between harvest and retail alone.
In that case, around 14 percent of all food produced globally is lost. Huge quantities of food are also wasted in retail or at the consumer level. The part of food that is lost from harvest up to, but not including, the retail level is called food loss. The part wasted at the consumer or retail level is referred to as food waste.
We make this distinction to address the root causes of this problem, a problem that everyone from farmers and producers to customers and shop-owners can help end. Reducing food loss and waste is essential in a world where millions of people go hungry every day. When we reduce waste, we respect that food is not a given for the millions of people who go hungry daily.