reduce food waste

7 Ways Your Business Can Reduce Food Waste

Simple food waste solutions with a big impact

Every year, 80 billion pounds of food is wasted in the US – totaling an equivalent of around $218 billion dollars wasted annually. Food is also the largest contributor to US landfills, where it breaks down and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Reducing your organization’s food waste can have a large impact not only on lowering your environmental footprint, but also in reducing your operating costs. In fact, a 2017 analysis of 1200 businesses found that companies save $14 for every $1 they spend to reduce food waste and loss.

Finding effective food waste solutions can feel overwhelming, especially for large organizations. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are 7 ways your business can reduce food waste in order to save money and lower environmental costs.

Primary Causes of Food Waste: How Do Businesses Contribute?

Businesses and other large organizations like educational institutions play a considerable role in contributing to the United States’ food waste problem. Retailers like grocery stores, restaurants, and food service companies contribute to around 40% of food waste in the US, with the rest coming mainly from private households and institutional sources.

Food waste and loss includes any food that expires, spoils, spills, or is otherwise discarded without being eaten. For businesses that wish to reduce their food waste, it’s important to pay attention to food that’s wasted before it’s cooked or served, as well as excess food that’s wasted or thrown out after serving. Finally, it’s also vitally important to address your handling of food waste that can’t be eaten, such as food scraps and other organic waste.

To put things simply, in order to address food waste, you should examine your food habits at various stages:

  • Before you buy it
  • When you’re eating it
  • When (and how) you dispose of it

Learn more about how and where food gets wasted: The Big Problem with Food Waste

reduce food waste

7 Food Waste Solutions for Businesses

Here are the best ways to lower your food waste and manage it properly.

1. Measure your food waste

The first step to reducing food waste is actually figuring out how much you’re producing. It’s also important to understand where food is primarily being wasted, whether that’s through over-ordering or food expiring before it can be eaten. Conducting a food waste audit can help you quantify food waste and make a data-informed plan moving forward.

You can find information on conducting a food waste audit in the EPA’s step-by-step guide.

2. Source reduction

This stage is focused on adjusting your food ordering based on the metrics you discover in your food waste audit. After all, over-ordering is one of the biggest contributors to food waste. Redesign your ordering and menus based on how much food you actually need. This should be focused not only on how much people are actually eating (or letting go to waste), but also on how much food is spoiling before it can even be prepared. This can save you money by lowering food buying costs. It can also help you lower the costs of managing large amounts of food that doesn’t get eaten.

If you serve pre-portioned meals, you can also consider evaluating your portion sizes if lots of food is ending up in the trash uneaten.

3. Store food effectively

Another major source of food waste is food that spoils before it can be used. It’s vital that you have a clear understanding of the storage requirements of all the foods you have in stock – and that you have the capacity and tools to store them in optimal conditions. This requires a focused organizational strategy.

4. Use food efficiently

Another part of reducing the amount of food that ends up in the trash or compost is using your ingredients efficiently. Sometimes called a “nose to tail” strategy, this method refers to using as many parts of an ingredient as possible. While you’re likely not butchering your meat on site, this can be applied to any kind of food, like using the broccoli stem and leaves or using food scraps to make soup broths.

5. Repurpose excess food

If you end up with leftover food that you’re not going to use, it can be donated or even sold. The best way to get rid of excess food is to send it to those in need. Donating your excess food also allows you to take advantage of tax deductions in the US. You can also sell the food to companies that connect consumers with surplus food at a lower price. There are a variety of programs that facilitate this, such as Flashfood and Too Good to Go. If your food waste isn’t safe for human consumption, you may also be able to sell it to farmers as animal feed.

6. Invest in a biodigester

Finally, it’s important to find food waste solutions that help you manage food waste that can’t go to another use. One of the easiest solutions is to invest in a biodigester, also known as an aerobic digestion machine, a machine that processes food waste quickly and sustainably. This hassle-free method of food waste management works on-site. You simply add food waste to the reaction chamber, and microbes work to digest it, transforming food waste into gray water that can be discharged into your city’s sewage systems.

Not only does a biodigester help reduce your costs of food waste management, but it also diverts food from landfills, supporting your organization in achieving its sustainability goals.

7. Train your staff on minimizing food waste

All of these methods can only be achieved with the help of your staff. As with any new initiative, food waste solutions must be implemented alongside a carefully designed training program and targeted support for your employees on the issue.

Learn more in What Is Food Waste Management?

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