Food waste is a big problem around the world, particularly in developed countries. A report by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers found that 30 to 50 percent of the four billion metric tons of food produced globally every year is wasted (1.2 to two billion tons). In developed countries, 30 to 50 percent of all food bought is thrown away by consumers.
Rotting food in landfills has a big impact on the environment. According to the EPA, over 97 percent of the food thrown away in the U.S. ends up in landfills. Rotting food produces the greenhouse gas (GHG) methane, which has a warming potential 20 times greater than carbon dioxide. Methane is the second most prevalent GHG in the U.S. emitted from human activities. In 2010, methane accounted for about 10 percent of all GHG emissions from human activities in the U.S. The U.S. is the second largest emitter of GHGs in the world.
Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe’s, is opening a store in Dorchester, Massachusetts that sells food items with recently expired dates in order to limit some of these wasteful emissions. Called the Daily Table, the store will sell mostly “fruits and vegetables, freshly prepared product, stuff that’s really not brand-driven,” Rauch told NPR.
Rauch described the store as a “kind of a hybrid between a grocery store and a restaurant, if you would, because primarily it’s going to take this food in, prep it, cook it [for] what I call speed-scratch cooking.” The prices of the food will “compete with fast food.” Asked if the food is safe to eat, Rauch answered, “Absolutely. As a matter of fact, if you have a product that says ‘sell by Sept. 1’ or ‘Oct. 1’ and, you know, it’s Oct. 2, most customers don’t realize you can eat that.”
Rauch’s idea is a good one considering that there is a big problem with the U.S. food date labeling system, as a recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council details. According to the report, the confusing date labeling system causes much food waste because consumers just don’t realize that pastdate food is still edible.
Central California city allows residents to put food waste in green waste bins
Some California cities are doing what they can to reduce food waste. About three dozen California cities allow city residents to put food waste into recycling bins. Most of those cities are in the Bay Area, but two of them are in the Central San Joaquin Valley, an area with one of the worst air basins in the country. Methane is a contributor to the Valley’s poor air quality. Those cities are Visalia and Clovis, and the latter was recently featured in the area’s local newspaper, the Fresno Bee. Clovis allows food waste to be put in the green waste bins. The food waste is sent to the the “trash contractor’s yard,” according to the Fresno Bee article, and then on to a composting facility “where it’s aged until it’s ready to become soil amendments.” Considering that the Valley is called the “agriculture center of the world,” that seems a great fit.
Photo: North Charleston