by Frank E. Celli, CEO, BioHiTech Global
Each year, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food that farmers grow never makes it to our plates. Tons of it ends up in landfills, where it emits methane, a greenhouse gas. This is food waste, caused by inefficiencies occurring at every step of the food chain from imperfect agriculture, poor logistics, confusing expiration labeling, spoilage, oversupply and overproduction. Waste also impacts important resources like water and land, and is then ultimately to be discarded without remorse.
As the population grows we will create more waste, and consume and degrade resources faster than they can be replenished. If we are to assume the responsibility of sustainability, meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the future generations, then we should be working overtime to assure that those resources are available to people in the future, and that we have strategies in place to become more efficient as it relates to waste.
The recycling measures the US takes with materials such as plastic, glass, aluminum and paper have become commonplace, but with food waste, only a fraction is currently diverted from our landfills. Legislation is gaining momentum with a handful of states and more than a handful of cities casting diversion objectives for the waste to find a more sustainable means for its disposal. But, if we were to shift the focus of food waste away from disposal, instead to its recovery or prevention, then it would no longer be considered a loss.
The recovery of wasted food would recognize that there is still value in the material outside of landfills, which is an important aspect of sustainability. In addition, prevention of even the smallest amount of waste sent to landfills is not only good for our environment, but also creating less waste in any step of the food chain means less money spent on energy, water, and other resources.
In order to achieve an efficient and sustainable system where more food waste would not be landfilled but rather recovered or prevented, companies will need to take a closer look at the waste they create to help them prevent it from the start. However, prevention strategies are impossible to achieve without access to detailed historical waste data.
Waste data up until today has been an urban myth. A curious customer asking to receive the details about what was transported to the landfill might never see that information, and if they did, it would have likely been provided months after the trash left their store, facility, hospital or hotel, etc. Also missing from the information would be the details about what was buried or incinerated. A waste story that has no beginning, middle, end or purpose can’t have a happy ending.
BioHITech Global offers an outcome unique to the waste industry. Our on-site aerobic digester is more than a piece of technology that offers businesses a cost-effective, trouble-free method for the disposal of their food waste. The devil is certainly in the details when it comes to this solution. It’s the cloud-based management tool that serves up real-time waste data that can be accessed from virtually any internet-connected device and is then complemented by its analytics delivering a happy end to wasted resources and food.
There are elements hidden in the details about waste that are important to the success of any prevention strategy. While there are risks and rewards to every strategy, the ones that win must have a measurable impact.