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Food Industry Sent 4.1bn Pounds of Waste to Landfills, Study Says

food waste graphicManufacturers, wholesalers and retailers threw away 4.1 billion pounds of food waste in 2011, according to an assessment of data collected from the industry.

The Food Waste Reduction Alliance, Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute and the National Restaurant Association conducted the study to provide a comprehensive assessment of the industry and to identify barriers to recycling food waste. The organizations ultimately want to reduce the volume of food waste sent to landfills.

The analysis of US food waste found each sector within the industry manages to divert some from the landfill.

The manufacturing sector, by far the largest producer, generated some 44.3 billion pounds of food waste in 2011. However, 94.6 percent of that waste was diverted from landfill, by either converting it to animal feed or reusing as fertilizer, the study says.

Most of the manufacturing sector’s food waste comes from unused ingredients, unfinished product or trimmings and peels. Retail waste tends to be finished products more suitable for donation, according to the study.

The total food waste in the retail and wholesale sectors was 3.8 billion pounds in 2011. Retailers and wholesalers diverted 55.6 percent of the food waste either through donations or recycling, the study says. The remaining 1.7 billion pounds were thrown away.

Composting was the most common food waste diversion method for retailers, many of which performed the process on site, the study says.

More than three-quarters food industry executives included in the survey reported several barriers that prevent food waste donation. Transporting food waste for donation is the biggest constraint for manufacturers. Retailers cite liability concerns.

Recycling can also be problematic. Some 91 percent of manufacturers and 83 percent of retailers cite insufficient recycling options as their top barrier to recycling food waste.

A commercial food waste ban has been proposed in Massachusetts to help the state reduce the volume it sends to landfill. The ban would apply to any organization that sends a minimum of 1 ton of organic food waste per week to the landfill.

 

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