Wasted Food: Rethinking Our Perceptions and Practices

photo of hands holding earth resulting from composting grocery waste

(Credit: https://pixabay.com/)

by | Mar 31, 2023

This article is included in these additional categories:

In the United States, food has become an underappreciated resource. Research indicates that up to 40% of food is discarded, leading to the production of harmful methane gasses and toxic leachate that ends up in waterways.

To combat this issue, the EPA working on guidelines to change perceptions by referring to discarded food as ‘Wasted Food,’ emphasizing that it is a valuable resource being wasted. Contrarily, referring to it as ‘Food Waste’ implies that the food no longer holds any value and must be managed as waste. Ultimately, a shift in mindset is required to reduce food waste in landfills.

Rooting Out the Misperception

One of the primary reasons why a large quantity of edible food is wasted in the US is due to labeling systems, such as expiration dates, which are often arbitrary across the industry and not an accurate indicator of food viability. Studies have shown that a staggering 84% of Americans dispose of food nearing its expiration date. This wasteful behavior is also fueled by consumers’ preference for aesthetically pleasing produce, disregarding misshapen or blemished items, which results in significant food wastage.

Additionally, the abundance of food in the US seems to have disconnected people from its actual value, including the time, energy, resources, and labor that goes into its production, transportation, and marketing. Even inedible food has value as compost, and commercial venues can use anaerobic digestion facilities to recover energy from it while enriching the soil.

We Can Fuel Change And Move Forward

Fortunately, there are efforts to address the issue, such as the Food Donation Improvement Act, which expands protections for commercial food donations, enhances food banks’ ability to access quality ingredients, and reduces waste sent to landfills. Startups such as Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market promote the consumption of imperfect foods at discounted prices, emphasizing that appearance does not correlate with nutrition or taste.

  • In 2020, Imperfect Foods’ last-mile delivery emitted 12,800 fewer tons of CO2 than trips to traditional grocery stores, purchased 7,921 tons of post-consumer recycled packaging, and saved 52,263,090 pounds of food.

Initiatives, such as the Farm Powered Strategic Alliance are excellent examples of productive collaborations, highlighting the importance of investing in companies specializing in food tech, waste management, and cleantech to effectively address this issue. In 2022, Feeding America salvaged 3.6 billion pounds of groceries to provide sustenance to families experiencing food insecurity.

Role of Technology

Technology can also play a pivotal role in reducing food waste. AI technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) can identify and correct human behaviors that lead to waste. By leveraging new and innovative technologies retailers can use the data to inform future processes and prevent unnecessary waste.

However, greater investment in these technologies is required, which begins with placing more value on the phrase ‘wasted food.’

Additional articles you will be interested in.

Stay Informed

Get E+E Leader Articles delivered via Newsletter right to your inbox!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Share This