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Solutions to Food Waste for Manufacturers, Consumers

Food WasteFood waste is an issue that cannot be ignored as it accounts for over 10% of what we throw in the landfill. The common misnomer that I regularly hear is that it doesn’t matter since it will just biodegrade anyway, but this could not be further from the truth. Landfills are specifically designed to not let any of the waste breakdown to avoid the potential contamination of the adjacent lands, water, and air. So how can we, both manufacturers and consumers, have an impact and alleviate this problem? It’s as simple as following the age-old moniker that we all know—reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Now, I completely understand that I am oversimplifying things, but sometimes that is the best way to look for potential solutions to problems. The first step to diverting food waste from the landfill is to simply reduce the amount of food waste that is generated. For both consumers and manufacturers, this can be done by conducting an informal waste audit, in other words, looking at the trash before you throw it in the dumpster. At a minimum, make a mental note of the food waste being thrown away then look back at the path it took to get there. For us consumers, this is usually fairly simple since it is something we brought home from the grocery store and either didn’t eat all of it or let it go bad. For manufacturers, this can be a little more difficult since you need to look back through the entire process that each particular food went through. Doing this can be very beneficial because by documenting your waste habits, you may very well be able to adjust your purchasing habits accordingly and reduce the amount of food waste you are generating as well as increase your bottom line.

As we all know, sometimes generating waste is unavoidable, so we must look at what we can do to prevent it from simply ending up in the trash. When it comes to food waste, reusing and recycling are fairly synonymous and can require some creative thinking. For the consumer, some options to look into are donating to local food pantries/shelters, reusing as animal feed, and composting. Many times, there may even be local resources available to aid you in these options. For the manufacturer, the above options are all available and there is another option that is gaining popularity—using food waste as feedstock or fuel for another process. While this option may not be feasible for all food manufacturers and requires some significant capital investment, in the long run it can improve the overall efficiency of the operation and save on future energy costs.

By looking at your waste streams from a different perspective, whether it be at home or at the factory, you can identify very simple ways to make a significant impact. For a business, reducing or eliminating waste is beneficial to the bottom line as well as to your image of being a sustainable organization. If consumers and manufacturers can both make advances to reduce food waste, the combined efforts can also lead to a more sustainable environment.

Joe BolickJoe Bolick
Iowa Waste Reduction Center
University of Northern Iowa

5 Responses

  1. Joe,

    I would like to introduce myself, I am Craig Rominger the Founder and Chairman of the Post Harvest Project, an organization created to tackle the global issue of food waste. I think there are some ways we could work together to help reduce food waste.

    I urge you to reach out to our organization and our Executive Director, Stan Emert.

    Best regards,
    Craig Rominger

  2. Joe,
    I would like to introduce our presentations as follows to use massive refuses and to eradicate massive industrial wastes:
    Third International Conference on Food Studies
    University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA, 15-16 October 2013
    Food innovations for traditional edible materials
    17th  Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference
    Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering in the 21st Century
    No- trans unsaturated margarine etc. with ultramicro-starch-filaments & delicious beautiful polyphenols of olive, etc. without NaOH nor salt treatment to eradicate massive industrial wastes
    Soybean-curd refuse cookie without oil & sugar. Non- oil- sugar- wheat- rice- seasoning- addition 1.5cm thick cookie, baked at 120℃ for 20 min to prevent denaturalization, trans-&acrylamide-formation, etc.
    Best regards,
    Y.Yamada MD

  3. I responded to the challenge to reduce food waste in the developed world that was offered by a German minister at the Save Food Congress in 2011 with the article: “Addressing Global Food Waste (Online Exclusive)”, Food Technology, Vol. 65, No.7, July, 2011. http://www.ift.org/food-technology/past-issues/2011/july/features/addressing-global-food-waste.aspx
    It offers a proposal to reduce, reuse/recycle and increase awareness of what we discard. Sincerely, Kenneth Marsh, Ph.D., CPP, CFS

  4. Food waste is an enormous problem in the food manufacturing and food processing industries. In fact, it’s not unusual for each major processor and each major manufacturer to throw out at least 200 tons of product each month. On an average, a large food manufacturer throws away $100,000 worth of food waste every month. That’s a lot of waste. The solution lies in finding innovative ways to reduce food waste in the first place.

  5. I am continuously searching online for articles that can benefit me. Thank you!

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