Written by Tinia Pina
The problem of food waste is not a new one; nor is this the first time in history that a light has shown so brightly upon its oft-hidden face. However, in a time when most people are moving away from pre-packaged, over-processed foods and electing, instead, to create meals for their families based on sustainable, organic and whole grain foods, the dumping of millions of pounds of produce into a landfill seems especially grotesque.
How much food is actually being, wasted? The numbers are staggering. In the United States, 40% of all food that is produced is wasted. This translates into 126 million tons each year with a value of $218 billion. While other nations have similar numbers, the U.S. is clearly at or near the top of the list.
Impact of Food Waste
Strained water and energy resources are being wasted to keep up with false production demands. Fresh water is at a premium, especially in places like California which, while in the throes of a major drought, continues to be one of the largest U.S. growers of produce. Each consumer is responsible for their own water footprint, including the water required to produce the food we purchase, which comprises roughly 50% of our total water footprint.
In addition to straining natural resources, the disposal of food waste into landfills is a major source of methane gas; a substance that has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. By some estimates, 13% of greenhouse gases produced in the U.S. can be traced back to the growing, manufacturing, transporting and disposal of food4.
Food waste accounts for nearly 32% of the household waste for most American homes; The total annual cost of this food waste is approximately $1,866 per household. The reason that such waste occurs can be attributed to three major factors: incorrect interpretation of food labels, demand for perfection and a false need for abundance.
Inconsistent food labeling is confusing to consumers and contributes to the reason a significant number of Americans throw food away prematurely. When coupled with a demand for food that looks run-way ready, it is easy to see how our over abundant natures have led us down this path. We will pass up a misshapen apple or a cucumber with speckled skin in the grocery store, refusing to see that the beauty of Mother Nature’s bounty is in the lack of uniformity.
Closed-Loop Food Systems: Reimagining Food Waste
One thing is clear, current food production and waste levels are not sustainable. Farmers, forced to keep up with unreasonable production demands, will develop new short-cuts and methods of mass production which will only exacerbate the problem.
To counterbalance this trend, restaurants and food service companies are using waste monitoring and management software to decrease the amount of food waste they produce. In states like California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont, laws have been passed to keep food waste out of landfills.
Outreach groups are educating consumers with the goal of changing the mindset that food is produced to be the subject of a beautiful Instagram photo; sustainable, organic foods are not fashion-models. They are real foods with real imperfections and natural nutrition.
Increased oversight and education are required to produce the change that is necessary; however, an innovative method of re-engineering food waste into fuel for new growth is required to completely close the loop.
Re-Nuble products were developed to answer that need. Sourced from raw vegetative food waste and effective in soilless systems, Re-Nuble fertilizers are sustainable and support the demand for locally sourced, organic foods by offering an alternative to chemical-laden synthetic mineral salts. In fact, we’re such huge proponents of agrihoods that our mission is to help people reimagine the idea of food waste and to use it as a way to supply urban areas with sufficient healthy food.
Is this something your company believes in too? Then let’s grow this idea together further.