For the last 6 weeks, we featured a piece on the topic of organic waste each week. Each week looked at a different segment or solution.
From talking with SolarX Works, one the problems here is the lack of cold chain infrastructure to maximize the quantity of produce that makes it to the market. If more produce can make it to the market without going bad, farmers and supermarkets stand to make more profit, and there are more solutions to address excess waste along the supply chain.
Upcycling has been growing as a trend over the last two years. Companies like Renewal Mill are fighting climate change and global food loss by upcycling the byproducts of manufacturing into premium ingredients and finished products.
Others in this space of enhancing the circular economy via upcycling food have come together to form the Upscaled Food Association. This association is working on a product certification program so that you can have your product certified the way that it would be certified organic or certified non-GMO.
When it comes to selling to consumers, one of the biggest problems is demand forecasting. When supermarkets underestimate their forecast, they leave money on the table, especially when supermarkets already operate on thin margins.
However, when there is excess supply, there is waste generated. The key here is to convert potential food waste into limited financial losses via dynamic pricing, like what Wasteless has created. Wasteless is an AI-based tracking solution for grocery stores to offer customers dynamic pricing based on product expiration date, helping retailers optimize markdowns, increasing their profitability.
No matter the innovations and process improvements, there will still be organic waste generated throughout the entire food supply chain – there will always be leftover banana peels and eggshells.
This is where companies like Compost Crew come in, to take care of organic waste composting and recycling. Managing organic waste will require a variety of solutions: composting, anaerobic digestion, incineration, and more. Innovations, like Gate 5, will help further this space to turn waste into value.
Food waste is a big problem world-wide – 1.3 billion tons of food per year are wasted globally (roughly a third of all food produced). Food waste is a $1.2 trillion problem. Minimizing food waste can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Waste bans are a good start to address organic waste, but we ultimately need national organic waste policies need to focus on four key areas: financial incentives, infrastructure, education, and enforcement.
With the right policies (with economic benefits), there will be incentives for a more circular economy. Policies can decrease the cost of recycling food waste and de-incentivize people from producing waste. New policies should address zoning for new waste management facilities, as well as by restructuring local taxpayer money.
New policies should establish financial incentives for consumers to produce less waste. The full cost of throwing away trash is not passed on to people and businesses that generate waste.
Some waste management companies look at total waste and the percentage breakdown of recyclables and compost (how they make money). In this case, the more you produce, the cheaper your bill is. These incentives are not aligned.
In regions and cities where it is more expensive to compost, there is an opportunity for upcycling companies. However, if companies that upcycle waste enter the market, it is also possible that waste producers will have to pay more money – if their total waste decreases, their waste management company may charge more, as upcycling will divert organic waste.
Communities, local governments, and businesses will also need to collaborate on education and outreach to increase demand for composting services. We are only capturing a fraction of available food waste because most people are not aware of the benefits or are not ready to change habits. People need to realize the importance of diverting organic waste from landfills and recycling it. This will increase demand of these services and drive down costs.
We can look to where Europe is today to see where the US will be in a couple years with regards to food waste. There will be a big evolution in consumer sentiment toward sustainability and food waste.
About The Author
Daniel currently works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His original assignment was to maintain and update facility safety documentation for all facilities on-site, and perform risk analysis. Over time, his role has expanded to leading continuous improvement efforts through product management.
Concurrently, Daniel volunteers with Techstars, helping organize startup weekends, and with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, organizing events on the local and national levels of the organization. He also volunteers with One World, and previously with Powerhouse Ventures, to source and screen startups for potential investment.
Daniel holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis, and recently completed coursework in energy innovation from Stanford. His passion is at the intersection of sustainability, innovation, and business.