About one-third of all the food produced for human consumption goes to waste. This is a significant amount, and the more so because there are vast populations of hungry people out there whom this food could benefit.
There has been increasing interest in cultivating a zero-waste ecosystem in food businesses to benefit not only the economy but also the environment. Sustainable waste disposal methods are a crucial component of this.
Benefits of reducing food waste
1. Closed-loop disposal solutions
Suitably segregated food waste has two major closed-loop applications, the creation of compost and the generation of heat and electricity.
In-vessel composting involves using a tunnel or vessel to process a mixture of food or garden waste and compost it within six to eight weeks, after which it can be used as a soil conditioner. Temperatures in the vessel go up to 70 degrees Celsius, high enough to kill any harmful microbes.
b. Anaerobic Digestion
This is an environmentally friendly waste management technique that uses microorganisms to break down food waste within an enclosed tank devoid of oxygen.
This process releases biogas as a by-product, that can be used as fuel for electricity and heating, for injecting into the gas grid or as transport fuel such as for waste collection vehicles. The end-product of anaerobic digestion is digestate, which is an excellent fertiliser.
2. Better air quality
Disposing of food by sending it to landfill releases methane, which is a greenhouse gas with 28 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide, according to National Geographic. Diverting food waste from landfill and disposing of it through sustainable methods like composting and anaerobic digestion helps to bring down air pollution levels.
3. Reducing water and energy usage
The better food consumption is managed, the lower the energy and water expended on producing and transporting excess food. Over a quarter of the world’s water supply is used to grow food that is later wasted, which makes it all the more vital to avoid food wastage.
Ways your business can reduce food waste
1. Measure food waste
Assess exactly how much food waste you produce on a weekly or monthly basis, and the kinds of waste that accumulate the most. This way, you can recalibrate your inventory management to avoid those patterns of waste, such as by ordering less of whichever product is wasted the most.
2. Avoid overbuying
While food businesses often tend to stock up on extra supplies, much of this ends up wasted. Plan your food purchases for each week or month so that you have precisely what you need and no more. Demand estimation based on historical eating trends can help with this.
3. Manage food deliveries better
Coordinate with your supplier to ensure that food gets delivered in suitably sealed containers to avoid spoilage and wastage.
4. Manage food surplus
If you do end up with extra food products, find ways to preserve them for longer. Perishable products, for instance, can be frozen. You can also use fresh produce to make sauces, smoothies or dips that can be stored more easily.
5. Look beyond best before dates
Best before dates are often misleading, as food can be eaten safely well past that if stored correctly. As a food business, you can take the lead in using food products past ‘best before’ dates in your meals, as long as they are not spoilt.
6. Do not buy too much food close to the expiry date
Expiry dates are essential, as they indicate the date past which food is no longer safe for consumption. While buying food products close to the expiry date can get you a discount, too much of it could leave you with a storeroom full of expired items.
7. Store food wisely
Storage conditions play a big part in ensuring that food does not spoil. Clean out your fridges and cupboards regularly, and follow the first-in-first-out inventory principle so that food products delivered earlier do not accumulate unused at the back of the storeroom.
8. Have internal waste bins
Label each of your internal waste bins clearly so that your staff members know what kinds of waste go where. For instance, food waste should be kept separate from packaging waste, which in turn should be kept separate from recyclable waste like bottles and cans.
Wrapping it up
Efficient food waste management demands time and consistency. By taking small steps every day, businesses in different industries can successfully combat food waste, minimise its adverse effects and contribute to a healthier planet.
An innovative way to combat food waste is through Anaerobic Digestion. Our anaerobic digestion systems (iD-R 5k systems) create biogas as a by-product that can be used as an alternative fuel in CHPand reduce the greenhouse effect. Visit www.waste2es.com for more information.