• Doris Zheku

Food Waste: The Landscape


What do restaurants, companies, nonprofits and governments all have in common? Food waste – and the goal to reduce it.


The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 40% of all food in this country goes to waste, meaning it ends up in landfills. The food waste in landfills is then converted into methane which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and to air pollution.


However, the above mentioned are all working towards cutting food waste, increasing composting capabilities and reducing their carbon footprints with sustainable solutions.


Restaurants and Food Waste


Restaurants contribute their fair share to the United States food waste issue, but they also hold the keys to creating more sustainable systems.


Instead of throwing away food at the end of a shift, it could be both profitable and less wasteful to offer food at the end of the day for half price. These deals could incentivize customers to purchase more than they normally would. This would result in less waste at the end of the night and the sale of more products.


Additionally, apps like Too Good To Go have teamed up with local restaurants to sell surplus food at lower prices to customers with the goal of slashing food waste.


Composting


The good thing about food waste and food scraps is that they are organic materials which can be composted.


Compost is used to create fertilize to add nutrient soil. The fertilized soil is used to grow more food and creates a closed loop – cutting out landfills and emissions from the cycle.


Instead of contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, food waste can go back into the production of food – it’s like recycling but with food!


Legal Landscape


According to the USDA, the Good Samaritan Act provides limited liability protection for “persons who make good faith donations to nonprofits that feed the hungry.” The term “person” encompasses grocers, restaurants, caterers, and wholesalers (local and state guidelines for food handling and food safety may differ). This means that restaurants can donate food that might otherwise end up as food waste while not worrying about their legal exposure.


In some cases, these deductions are also considered tax deductible – furthering the benefits of donating food that would otherwise go to waste.


The Landscape is Changing


California recently passed a law that will require food waste to be composted (compostable materials can be anything from food scraps like vegetable cutting and eggshells to cardboard and paper products). This new law means restaurant franchises could be fined for throwing food waste into the dumpster.


It will be on the state and counties to figure out composting infrastructure. However, increased composting infrastructure may make it easier for your business to not waste food and end up the next viral TikTok trend.


If it’s an issue for your business, chances are it isn’t any easier for individual consumers to compost.


Before this law, Megan McSherry, a sustainability influencer based in Los Angeles, had no curbside compost collection service available in her community.


It was up to her as an individual to save her food scraps in her freezer and then drop them off weekly at a composting site.


The lack of systems can make it hard for consumers and businesses alike to compost. However, the changing laws combined with the market demand shifts means business are already heading in the direction of sustainability.


Social Media & Food Waste


Users of TikTok have used social media as of late to call out issues of food waste.


The platform has also been a place to post recipes that use food scraps like this one. Users responded positively to the ingenuity and creativity involved in food scrap recipes.


This is another way food waste can become transformed into something positive and useful. Restaurants can benefit from implementing recipes and strategies like this while also reducing the amount of food waste that enters our environment.


Hire a food waste consultancy



Food waste consultancies can be useful in planning out inventory in order to prevent wasted food before it can happen.


These companies have artificial intelligence dedicated to anticipating the amount of food needed to stock the shelves and anticipate demand of customers at the end of the night.


This gives restaurants and companies the ability to prevent food products from going to waste, essentially stopping food waste in its tracks.


In Summary


There is no putting it lightly: food waste is a MASSIVE issue in the country. It will not go away overnight. However, in the interim, there are ways to implement sustainable practices that will cut down businesses’ environmental impact. They are becoming readily available and even come with incentives.

Laws are changing to make composting easier. Apps have been created to help sell excess food at the end of the night. Food donations are tax deductible and can help improve the public perception of your business.


Food waste has a myriad of potential solutions and prevention practices that can be put into place to help curb its environmental impact. A combination of the factors above can be used in tandem to help reduce food waste.


Like McSherry said, when it comes to reducing food waste, “It’s all about striking a balance.”