In the United States, 30%-40% of the food produced goes to waste each year. Of this, 31% is lost at retail and consumer levels. Meanwhile, families are going hungry around the world.
Learn how one company is upcycling food from waste, and how you can be part of the sustainable revolution.
What Classifies as Food Waste?
Any decrease in the quantity or quality of food due to decisions or actions of consumers, retailers and foodservice providers would be considered food waste.
Food waste includes:
- Discarded parts of produce
- Spoilage when products expire
- Surplus of items that are never purchased
- Wasted supplies from the production process
- Throwing out leftovers at dining establishments
How Can Waste Be Upcycled?
Upcycled foods use ingredients that would not have been consumed by humans otherwise. The food is procured and produced through verifiable supply chains. These items positively impact the environment by creating food products using nutrients that would typically fall through the gaps in the system.
Consumers can purchase upcycled foods as a way to help eliminate waste. Solutions, like upcycling, increase the amount of food available to be eaten while also creating value from products that would have been thrown out.
Why Is It Important?
Of the food we throw away, 94% ends up in landfills or combustion facilities. The energy and money expended in the production process are lost when edible materials are discarded.
There are many ways to convert traditional food waste into something more valuable. Examples include upcycled food, animal feed and energy production.
It has the potential to be a renewable energy source that would provide long-term economic and environmental benefits. Food waste can be transformed into methane gas, which powers generators. This method can produce enough electricity to power eight to 10 houses using 1 ton of food waste. This means a single person’s annual food waste in North America could power a 100-watt lightbulb for two weeks.
When you consider the long-term potential of transformative processes, food waste suddenly becomes a hot commodity.
How Is the Upcycled Food Association Making a Difference?
Upcycled Food Association (UFA), created in 2019, is a nonprofit focused on growing the upcycled economy and reducing food waste. The association has recognized the importance of collaborating to establish a movement and build a successful food category.
UFA consists of members from around the globe, and they are accomplishing their goals through networking, researching, strategizing and advocating policies to elevate the food network to its greatest potential. The association has standardized the definition for upcycling, which has strengthened the trend, united businesses and created the first step in establishing supportive legislation.
UFA is building a community and helping companies demonstrate their contribution to food waste reduction.
These three groups benefit from upcycled foods:
- Consumers: They enjoy nutritious new products and feel good that they are part of the food waste reduction movement.
- Food businesses: They create new dishes using ingredients that traditionally go to waste while also acting socially responsible.
- Producers: They sell at higher prices because more of what they grow and make goes toward feeding people.
What Can You Do to Help Reduce Food Waste?
Everyone has a role to play in the mission to reduce food loss. You can make changes at home, act as a leader in your community and encourage businesses to change their practices.
In Your Home
Make conscious decisions to reduce your contribution to global food waste. Begin by only buying what you need and preparing if before the expiration date. Eat leftovers, rather than making new meals each day. Spend some time getting creative with ingredients and strive to use every part of the product. For example, if you purchase a whole chicken, you can eat the meat and use the carcass to make homemade chicken broth.
Remember to store ingredients so they remain fresh, and freeze any excess to ensure supplies last. Also, you can transform inedible ingredients into animal feed or compost.
In the Community
You can donate extra food to hunger-relief organizations or host a food drive within your community. Use food sharing apps to connect with locals to trade fresh meals and ingredients. Think about it like you’re asking your neighbor if they had fresh eggs, but on a larger scale. Likewise, you can share excess food with other people informally.
Research whether any businesses sell their products at a reduced cost at the end of the day. Swoop in and get incredible savings, all while saving products from the landfill.
In the Workplace
Talk with your co-workers about what you’ve learned concerning sustainable purchasing. Share the facts relating to worldwide hunger and food loss. Encourage managers to order efficiently for company events and package leftovers for everyone to take home.
Check out whether your company offers a donation match for nonprofits or time off for volunteering. Support businesses that make a difference, and ask others in your social network to do the same. The more you share, the more you educate those around you.
Food Waste Begone
Have you heard of turning trash into treasure? These opportunities to reduce leftovers and transform them into new products are a perfect example. What would usually be discarded will have a second life —benefiting producers, businesses, consumers and the environment.