Ways To Reduce And Sustainably Manage Food Waste

This is a sad but true statistic. Approximately 40% of all produce in the US goes to waste – about $160 billion (60 million tons) worth annually, an amount that constitutes “one-third” of food produced is thrown away each year.

The wasted food in your home can add up after a while. All that food you throw out will cause you to waste money, what with you spending more money on food when you should have been eating the stuff that you already have. The UN Food & Agriculture Organization estimates an average figure of 3 trillion dollars of food grown is wasted or lost.

What is wasted food, and where does it come from?

The phrase “wasted food” describes all of the uneaten and unused meals generated by restaurants, cafeterias, households, or retail stores. These foods may be donated for a cause like feeding people in need; they could also end up as animal feed in an organic farm where they will provide nutrients needed to grow healthy animals from sustainable practices. Some individuals even turn their trimmings into compost, while others send it off-site using different digestion technologies.

The UNEP’s 2021 Food Waste Index found that 931 million tonnes of food were generated last two years (2019). 61% came from households, 26% came from restaurants, and 13% originated from retail stores like grocery chains or bakeries.

Countries with High Confidence Food Waste Estimates

EPA uses the term “wasted” instead, which implies a valuable resource has been wasted. While “food waste” may seem appropriate, it focuses on what happens after consumers have done their part in keeping kitchens clean: cooking up too many meals only to see them go uneaten due to lack of interest by people who are not hungry enough.

  • Excess Food is Food recovered and given to the needy
  • Food waste can also be referred to as plate waste (i.e., uneaten dishes), peels or spoiled food and rinds considered inedible and left to decompose, feed to animals, combusted with energy recovery, or used as landfill.
  • Food loss is a phrase that refers to unused products from the agricultural sector. The EPA encourages anyone managing wasted food to reference a Food Recovery Hierarchy when deciding how best to use excess that cannot be put through higher levels or sent off into composting. This food breaks down with help from anaerobic bacteria and produces methane gas as its byproduct.

What are the Benefits of Sustainable Food Management?

The production of wasted food in our modern society is an untapped opportunity. In 2018 alone, EPA estimates that at least 63 million tons of perfectly good nutritious produce go to waste – with about 32 percent being managed by animal feed or bio-based materials/biochemical processing systems like composting!

In 2021, it was estimated that in the United States, more meals are sent to combustion facilities and landfills compared to other materials in our day-to-day trash. Approximately 24% of landfilled and 22% of the total amount are combusted for energy recovery. 

Food waste is a massive problem in our homes and communities and across the world. But you don’t have to worry for long when some simple steps can make all the difference! Reducing wasted food will help save resources and it’s good news all around because it’s beneficial to the economy, environment, and communities. To this end, when we waste food, we miss an opportunity to save consumer’s money and save other businesses:

Saving Money

  • Pay Less for Trash Pickup: companies stand the change to pay less for trash pickup by storing wasted food out of garbage.
  • Receive additional Tax benefits: If you donate safe, healthy, and edible food (items) to the needy, your company can claim tax benefits.
  • Spend less by wasting less: if your company can find creative ways to prevent/ reduce waste, you stand the chance of spending less by buying only food items you will use. The fact is, preventing food wasted can cut down the cost of labor and energy associated with throwing away good food.

Helping People

Recovering and preventing food waste may be the missing link that makes all the difference in your community:

  • Feed People, Not Landfills – Donating food to those in need is an act that goes a long way. There are many organizations out there who can use your help, and they’re waiting for it! Contact a local food rescue group or Feeding America for information on how you could get involved with donations and what types of foods your organization can donate.
  • Feed Children – By redirecting food that would otherwise go to waste, we can help feed our country’s children. The US Department of Agriculture National School Lunch Program provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost, or free lunches for 31 million kids each school day!
  • Create Job Opportunities – The number of people employed in the food recycling industry has increased tremendously since 2008, and it is predicted that this growth will continue for many years to come. By recovering waste or unused foods through donation, salvage processing, industrial reuse (e.g., cattle casings), and composting, we can strengthen our infrastructure while creating jobs supporting local economies and promoting innovation.
  • Feed the World – Imagine a world where every person has enough to eat. This is not an impossible dream; it can be a reality with the right steps now and in years ahead! According to stats conducted by the Food & Agriculture Organization states that from 2012 to 2014, there were about 805 million hungry people on earth, and by eliminating food waste, we would have sufficient resources for all those who currently lack adequate nourishment- including 2 billion kids suffering from chronic malnutrition. They further predicted that we wouldn’t need any increase in production or pressure on natural resources due to the newfound abundance.

Conserving Resources

Reducing wasted food contribute remarkably to the environment:

  • Reduce Methane from Landfills – When food goes to the landfill, it’s like tying up your groceries in a plastic bag. The nutrients never make their way back into the soil and instead rot away, producing methane gas as waste which adds more greenhouse gases onto an already warm planet!
  • Save Resources – Wasted Food, water, energy, labor, pesticides, gasoline, and fertilizer use in food production.
  • Return Nutrients to the Soil – if you can’t reduce, prevent or donate wasted food for some reason, you can alternatively compost by sending scraps to a composting facility or by using them in a landfill; this way, you help increase the nutrient on the soil. When scrap food is composted properly, they improve soil structure, support more native plants, and increase soil retention, reducing the need for pesticides and fertilizers.

Situations When Food Get Wasted By Americans:

A few days before the date the printed on the product
When the product reaches the "Sell-by" date
When the product reaches the "Best-by" date
When the product reaches the "Use-by" date
A few days after the date the printed on the product
When the item doesn't smell/look/taste right

Here are several helpful tips that you can utilize when keeping your food waste down at a personal level. These are solutions that help you to preserve your foods while keeping you from wasting lots of money on foods that you end up throwing out:

Food Rescue Infographic

Review how much Food you’re Buying at a Time

You have to start looking at what you’re getting out of your foods when you’re asleep. You need to really think about how much food you are buying at a time. The odds are you might be buying more than what you can handle.

Be Smart with the Dates on your Food Packages

One of the most common reasons why people waste food is because they throw those foods out after the dates on their food packages have passed. You might see “sell by” or “best by” on many packages in your home. Your food is not going to go bad once the date has passed. Rather, these dates are listed to let product retailers know when they need to remove products from their shelves. 

The dates allow these places to know when they need to replace the foods. Your foods are not going to become stale or worn after that particular date. Therefore, it should be safe for you to consume these foods. More importantly, you have to avoid the excess worry that comes with the date in mind.

Store your Foods Well

The storage efforts you put in for keeping your foods protected should be checked well. You need to utilize plenty of containers for your foods. Keeping foods in your refrigerator or freezer can also help you to preserve them for a little longer.

But the most important thing about storing your foods is to watch for how some foods produce ethylene gas. 

This is a gas that triggers the ripening processes in foods. The gas can spread around foods near these spaces, thus causing the foods to spoil. Bananas produce more ethylene gas than most other foods, although tomatoes, avocadoes, and cantaloupes can also spoil fast. Therefore, you should keep foods that produce lots of ethylene gas away from others so the foods where you are aren’t going to spoil quickly.

Blend Foods When You Can

The last tip to use is to look at how you can blend foods as needed. You can blend foods to produce a good smoothie or juice as desired. This ensures you’ll have more control over how well you’re using the foods in your home. This works well when you’re going to get fruits and vegetables handled well. Also, it might be easier for you to enjoy some of these foods if you get a quality smoothie ready.

Each of these solutions should help you with keeping you from wasting more food than what is necessary. Be sure to share these points with other family members in your household if you have any. You’ll find that your place will use food well while keeping from wasting lots of money in the process.

Review how well the Foods in your Refrigerator or Freezer are Arranged

The best idea for keeping foods in these critical appliances in your home is to ensure you don’t keep anything in there for too long. A good rule of thumb is to keep the foods organized to where every item in the fridge or freezer is visible without other things getting in the way. The foods should accessible enough to where nothing will be in the way of whatever you are trying to use for your food preparation or planning needs.

Review the Special Preservation Solutions that you can Utilize in your Home

You can utilize many appealing preservation solutions for keeping the foods in your home safe. These options include things like canning or drying foods:

  • You can use a food dehydrator to remove the moisture from various foods, thus allowing them to last longer.
  • A canning process can help you with securing many foods in airtight can surfaces. This works well provided you have a sturdy pressure cooker to handle the effort and clean and sanitary canning materials for the process.
  • A vacuum sealer may also help you keep some foods lasting a little longer. A sealer will allow foods to be kept in bags that will have all the air removed from their bodies. The food is not going to last forever, but its lifespan will be significantly longer when the foods are sealed and not exposed to oxygen that can cause the foods to age fast.

Check on the quality of the foods you’re preserving if you want to make this process work. The processes listed here work best when you’re keeping the food’s health.

Review the Serving Sizes for whatever you plan on using

Look at the serving sizes for the foods and you’re going to plan. You must ensure the serving sizes you have are managed well and that you’re not eating more than necessary. The problem with serving more food at a time is that you’re more likely to have yourself and other people being unable to finish eating everything. This could be a problem due to the serving size being too big. 

As a result, people might end up disposing of more of their food. The waste produced here can be annoying and bothersome.

You should avoid keeping your serving size from being too large. Think carefully about what you and others at your place will consume first. You need to keep those serving sizes in control so whatever you consume won’t be overly excessive.

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