July 07, 2021

Breakdown of Food Waste Across the Supply Chain

This month, we’re releasing a blog series that focuses on our first core mission - reducing food waste - as we all work together toward our goal of achieving Zero Waste by 2050. Food waste is systemic, nuanced, and multifaceted. It happens across the entire supply chain, from farm to table: 33% occurs on farms, 21% in postharvest, 8% in retail, and 39% in homes. To create a lasting impact, we must rethink and reshape our food systems at every step of the supply chain. While this blog series will cover each setting mentioned above, the first blog addresses food waste reduction in homes, which relies heavily on changing our daily consumption habits.

 

Food Waste: A Massive Environmental Concern

 

A recent study by the Natural Resource Defense Council found that a staggering 40% of all food produced in the United States is never eaten. This food waste adds up to approximately 20 pounds per person per month. Widespread food waste costs the US approximately $218 billion in losses annually, and these losses are even more sizable when considering the inputs associated with producing our food – 25% of all freshwater consumed, 80 million acres of farmland, and 13% of all emitted carbon.

Fruits and Vegetables in Landfill

Of all the food categories we waste, fruits and vegetables rank at the top. On average, 52% of fruits and vegetables grown in the United States are never eaten. With all this food going to waste, the logical question to ask is how and why so much goes uneaten. 

 

Who Wastes The Most Food? It's You And Me


Although commercial waste has received recent publicity due to “ugly produce” sellers like Imperfect Produce, the largest culprit of food waste in America is not the farmer, the supplier, or the retailer; it is the end consumer. North America has a higher rate of consumer food waste than any other region and 39% of American food waste occurs in the home.

Food Waste in Trash Can

This waste happens for a variety of reasons we are all probably familiar with, including: confusion over date labels, spoilage due to poor storage, impulse and bulk purchases, improper meal planning, overproduction during meal prep, and general lack of awareness about food waste. 


The Healthiest Consumers Are The Most Wasteful

 

While there are a variety of reasons why food is being wasted in the homes, it is important to note that not all people waste food at equal rates. The USDA recently conducted a study relating food waste to personal health. They found that because healthy consumers typically purchase more perishable fruits and vegetables, they are also the most wasteful demographic. This makes sense as fresh produce is often the first food to go bad in a household kitchen. 


Good and Bad Oranges

This heightened household waste comes as no surprise to Lisa Jahns, a nutritionist at USDA and co-author of the USDA study, who recommends educating consumers on fruit and vegetable storage in order to reduce food waste. She relayed that “consumers aren’t connecting the dots, [and] they don’t see the cost when they throw food in the trash. At the same time, we don’t want to undermine legitimate food safety concerns and we need to be aware it’s not just the cost of food that’s the issue. It’s the time and energy required to prepare and store food, which often isn’t a priority in a busy household.”  


Solutions For Zero Waste By 2050

 

While tackling food waste may seem daunting, especially for those who like to use fresh ingredients and produce, there are plenty of small changes we can make to our daily food habits that can create a significant impact in reducing waste at home.  

The 2050 Smoothie

At The 2050 Company, we took a unique approach to eliminating food waste in our daily lives. We wanted to get our daily dose of fruits and vegetables, but we were concerned with how much fresh produce was thrown out after it went unused. This inspired us to use freeze-drying technology  to extend the shelf-life of fresh produce from days to years. This tactic helped us create our first product - The 2050 Smoothie. The 2050 Smoothie has the same nutritional content as fresh fruit. However, while fresh fruit and vegetables may last for a week, the 2050 Smoothie stays good for up to a year! Consumers can keep the smoothie in their pantry until they feel like preparing it, never having to worry about it going bad. 

While using more sustainable products like The 2050 Smoothie has helped us reduce our daily waste, there are other solutions for reducing food waste at home. These include:

Meal Prepping
  • Implementing wiser shopping habits that are based on meal prep lists
  • Educating yourself about food quality and expiration
  • Using freezer storage more often to preserve food before it spoils
  • Preparing smaller portions at homes when leftovers aren’t often consumed

 

Small Changes Can Have A Big Impact

 

According to Lisa Jahns, “We need a simultaneous effort to increase food quality as well as reduce food waste. We need to put both of those things out.” Eliminating food waste in households will not happen overnight, but becoming aware of how our established consumption habits contribute to the growing food waste issue is a good place to start. Once we recognize how we individually add to the problem, we can implement small changes that bring about a positive impact. In other words, cutting out waste at home a great first step toward achieving Zero Waste by 2050!

 

This has been the first installation of The 2050 Company’s “Zero Waste by 2050” blog series. Each week, we'll dive into a new area where food is currently wasted and explore novel solutions to eliminate this waste. To follow along with us on this exploration, please subscribe to The 2050 Newsletter by entering your email address in the footer below!




Also in Zero Waste by 2050

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Food Waste on Farms

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Food Waste in Processing
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Today, as we focus on food waste at the processing level, I will zoom in on each of these terms. I’ll outline the subtle difference between “rescued” and “imperfect” produce by sharing details about the specific produce we incorporate into the 2050 Smoothie. By the end of this article, you should have a better sense of exactly what you are drinking when you blend up a 2050 Smoothie at home!

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Food Waste in Stores and Transit
Food Waste in Stores and Transit

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When I walk down the aisles in a grocery store, I see rows and rows of perfect produce. Under the lights, it seems like some of it even sparkles! But what happens to the produce that doesn’t catch the light just right? What happens to the misshapen and "imperfect" produce that doesn’t make it to the shelf? This is one of the questions that inspired me to join The 2050 Company as an intern this summer!

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