Why is Sainsbury’s, the U.K.’s third largest supermarket chain, encouraging customers to make apple pie with leftover bread? One reason: Sainsbury’s wants to reduce consumer food waste.
Doing so can boost sustainability, increase the company's cachet with customers and fatten its bottom line.
Food waste is a problem that extends beyond the landfills, where organics release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. When we throw away food, we also throw away the money, natural resources (water, energy, land, oil for transport) and human capital used to produce, process, transport and sell the wasted food. A full 40 percent of edible food in the United States goes uneaten, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s August 2012 report. The average American wastes ten times as much food as someone in Southeast Asia and 50 percent more than an American living in the 1970s.
With households accounting for 44 percent of U.S. food waste, restaurants for 33 percent and grocery stores for 11 percent, according to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), solutions must focus on all three sectors.
Organizations are already tackling the job of diverting food waste from landfills into more productive uses.FMI and the Grocery Manufacturers Association are collaborating with industry on the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, and the U.S. EPA uses the Food Recovery Challenge to focus grocers, universities, stadiums and other venues on purchasing leaner and diverting surplus food to productive uses.
Not enough attention, however, is placed on preventing food waste. And diversion too often does not apply to households, as residential composting is not widely available.
Next page: Can we do it?