Globally, we waste about 1.4 billion tons of food annually, and wasting food contributes to 11 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to this 2021 Guide. The United States discards more food than any other country in the world – nearly 40 million tons every year. That’s estimated to be 30 to 40 percent of the entire U.S. food supply. Food insecurity is also a major issue. Before the pandemic, 35 million people across America had food insecurity and that number is expected to rise to as much as 50 million in 2021.
Fortunately, many states have passed bans on food waste, including but not limited to, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. For example, Connecticut requires food waste generators, including supermarkets and food manufacturers, to divert their food waste to an organics processing facility. Rhode Island’s law requires certain businesses and institutions to divert organic waste to authorized composting facilities. In California, the mandatory commercial recycling law requires certain businesses to subscribe to organic waste recycling services.
Additionally, the EPA has set a 2030 Goal to reduce food loss and waste by half by 2030, as well as a Food Recovery Challenge, based on its food recovery hierarchy, to incentivize organizations to set data-driven goals, implement targeted strategies, and report results to compete for annual recognition from EPA.
At the same time, many companies are taking proactive action to address food waste. These 20 innovative companies are figuring out how to make new products from food waste. For instance, Render partners with chefs to create new products like a snack using leftover quinoa. The Real Dill didn’t want to throw out the cucumber-infused water that it creates as part of the pickling process, so it started making it into a Bloody Mary mix, which helped the company achieve zero waste. Salt & Straw made a “Second-Steeped Rum Spices and Apple Butter” flavor from spices rescued from a Portland distillery and apple butter made from bruised apples that otherwise would have been wasted.