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How Can Manufacturers Save Billions? By Reducing Food Waste.

grocery store bananasFood waste costs businesses billions of dollars each year.

To help companies save money and other resources lost to wasted food, The Rockefeller Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, the EPA and a partnership of 10 industry and nonprofit organizations are creating an online hub for information and best-practices to help achieve the US goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030.

Hundreds of leading food and beverage companies — Unilever, Nestlé, Anheuser-Busch InBev, among them — have also committed to halve food waste within their operations by 2025, compared to a 2016 baseline. This new website will help them reach this target as well.

US companies spend more than $162 billion growing, processing, and transporting food that is never eaten. In the process, water, energy, land, labor and money are invested into food that ultimately ends up in landfills, where it generates about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

When the Further With Food website launches in January 2017, it will include best practices for preventing, recovering and recycling food loss and waste, as well as educational materials and information on existing government, business and community initiatives.

This will benefit a variety of sectors, including manufacturers, retailers and the hospitality industry, Devon Klatell, associate director of strategic planning at The Rockefeller Foundation told Environmental Leader.

“Manufacturers sit at an early point in the value chain, which means they can impact sourcing, supply chains and distribution — three areas where food is often wasted,” she said. “Many of these organizations are already driving action and innovation on reducing food waste — for example through upcycling byproducts not traditionally viewed as waste, installing waste-to-energy generators, and making line optimization changes — and have reaped benefits such as reduced costs and energy generation. The Further With Food hub will enable sharing of best practices and coordination among manufacturers to streamline and coalesce efforts. For those manufacturers who have yet to enter the food waste arena, this virtual resource can spark ideas and encourage action.”

At the retail level, reducing food waste will lower waste hauling costs, among other financial benefits. “Every bit of food discarded represents a loss of resources, almost all of them hidden — think transport costs, energy for refrigeration and storage, and labor,” Klatell said. “This year, we’ve already seen a wave of retailers embrace food waste prevention, whether it be through selling ugly produce, donating food that would otherwise go unsold or extending shelf life through innovative packaging and inventory practices. Further With Food will hold a repository of proven solutions that businesses can implement and scale, and retailers can use the platform to collaborate and coordinate.”

The Rockefeller Foundation has made a $130 million commitment to tackle food waste, called the YieldWise initiative. As part of this initiative, the foundation is supporting the World Wildlife Fund, which is working with Hilton and others in the hospitality industry to create a toolkit of best practices to reduce food waste in hotels and the food service industry.

“The hospitality industry provides a perfect example of how Further With Food can touch other industries,” Klatell said.

Reducing food waste can provide new revenue streams for companies as well. A recent study that looked at business opportunities related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals found the biggest is in reducing food waste in the value chain, which could yield up to $405 billion annually in economic benefits.

In other efforts to reduce food waste, some states have enacted or are considering commercial food waste bans. Massachusetts, in 2014, was the first state to enact a commercial organic waste ban for the estimated 1,700 establishments that produce more than one ton of material per week, Waste Dive reports. A new study commissioned by the Massachusetts Department for Environmental Protection found the commercial food waste ban has already generated $175 million in economic activity.

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