If you haven’t heard yet, you’re likely to hear about this very soon. Mayor Bloomberg in New York City is taking on the issue of food waste and has proposed a policy that will require New Yorkers to separate their food scraps for composting.
New York isn’t the first city to do this, but because it’s New York it’s receiving a lot of attention. Similar policies in Seattle and San Francisco have been in place for some time.
An article today in the New York Times, Bloomberg Plan Aims to Require Food Composting, provides an overview of the proposed policy and also explains the anticipated timeline:
“Sanitation officials said 150,000 single-family homes would be on board voluntarily by next year, in addition to more than 100 high-rise buildings — more than 5 percent of the households in the city. More than 600 schools will take part as well. The program should expand to the entire city by 2015 or 2016, the sanitation officials said.”
There are also a couple of mind-boggling stats in this article that should be noted:
- The city spent $336 million last year disposing of residential trash, exporting most of it to landfills in Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
- Food waste and other organic materials account for almost a third of all residential trash.
- The city could save about $100 million a year by diverting it from landfills.
For us food waste advocates, the buzz around this policy helps to further our cause by shining the light on the scope of the food waste issue. There is no doubt that composting plays a role in the solution, however, we caution people not to focus exclusively on composting. The EPA Food Waste Hierarchy positions composting just above landfill—it keeps food out of the landfill and prevents the downstream environmental impacts of food waste; however, it does not address the upstream environmental impact—all of the energy and resources lost getting that food from the farm to the kitchen. Food waste prevention (or source reduction) is the most preferred option on the pyramid, as it addresses the full environmental impact by preventing that waste before it becomes waste we need to compost or otherwise dispose of. Compost is a great step on the journey to stop food waste, but we can’t stop there.
To learn more about food waste prevention, visit www.leanpath.com.
Today is World Environment Day and it’s no coincidence that it’s also a very big day for food waste advocates. Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency joined forces to launch the U.S. Food Waste Challenge.
Food waste used to be something that people didn’t want to talk about—now it’s a topic that is front and center in many people’s minds, particularly those of us in food service. This challenge aims to take awareness of food waste to the next level: “to disseminate information about best practices to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste; and stimulate the development of more of these practices across the entire U.S. food chain.”
Join the challenge! Participants submit the activities they will practice to reduce, recover, or recycle food waste in their operations and the USDA will post these activities on its website along with periodic status reports. For those accounts already using LeanPath, this is a great way to raise your commitment and showcase the great work you are doing to minimize food waste! Please contact LeanPath if you would like additional support.
For foodservice operators, what to do with food waste is a big concern. Much of it can be prevented with ongoing measurement and insight with tools like the LeanPath System. However, some food waste is always inevitable, namely the food waste generated in the front-of-the-house from consumer behaviors outside of your control. After you’ve explored strategies in order based on the EPA Food Waste Hierarchy, you may be considering throwing scraps in your garbage disposal. This method of food landfill reduction has raised questions for some foodservice operators who wonder if there are environmental issues with disposals.
Recently published in the United Airlines Hemispheres magazine, an article called “Chop and Change” explores how garbage disposal units might be the next great thing for urban sustainability.
“Unlike most landfills, many wastewater treatment plants actually use the methane they generate. Sewage treatment is an energy-intensive business; by encouraging microbes to gobble up your waste inside special tanks, these facilities are able to capture the gas to power their operations. In the past, when sewage plants made more methane than they needed, they simply flared it off. But now they’re looking for ways to expand usage of the biogas, like delivering it into natural gas pipelines or the electricity grid.”
To start to reverse the sometimes “bad rap” of sewage treatment plants, the industry is also trying to give these plants a fair chance by changing the name. “Water resource recovery centers” is the new name, and it could be coming to a city near you very soon.
You can view the full article here: http://www.hemispheresmagazine.com/2013/06/01/chop-and-change/
LeanPath primarily focuses on pre-consumer food waste (or kitchen waste), however many times we are asked for tips to minimize post-consumer waste. And while some of this waste is driven by guest behaviors outside of your control, there are a number of strategies you can employ to minimize front-of-the-house waste. Here are just a few:
Go Trayless—For those of you with buffets or all-you-care-to-eat programs that haven’t gotten rid of your trays, do it. Studies show it can reduce food waste by more than 30%.
Reconsider Staffed Services—Self-service buffets can help with labor costs but letting guests serve themselves often times results in more waste. Staffed services allow you to have more control over the portion size and the waste savings could be much greater than the cost for staffing.
Check Plate and Portion Sizes—According to research from the Natural Marketing Institute, 66% of American adults are choosing smaller portions at mealtime. Take advantage of the fact that smaller portion sizes are preferred and consider modifying your plate sizes to ensure appealing presentation.
Do you have tips to share with the LeanPath community? Please email us and we’ll highlight them on the blog!
The Berea College Dining Program is operated by Sodexo. As part of its commitment to reduce organic waste, support local communities and lower its carbon footprint, Sodexo implemented the LeanPath food waste prevention system in the Berea Mountaineer Dining Hall in March 2012.
Berea staff had weighed waste before, but had never had a way to easily equate the food with a dollar amount. The LeanPath System, which quantifies the estimated value of all pre-consumer food being discarded, increased awareness of the value of food for both the management and front-line team which led to some creative ideas. Instead of using lettuce heads to decorate trays, they now use celery tops. Instead of discarding vegetable trimmings they use them to make sauces or salsas. If there’s something left-over they can make use of safely, they work with the chefs to modify menus. The eye-opening dollar figures challenged the team to think strategically about production and safe re-use.
“We’re using our savings to invest in more local foods—from our own college and local producers. Our savings allow us to offer these high-quality local foods without increasing the cost to our students.” Caitlin McClanahan, Sustainability Manager
In less than one year of Sodexo implementing the LeanPath food waste prevention system, Berea College reduced its pre-consumer food waste by 49% year-over-year and lowered plate cost significantly.
Click here to read the full case study.
Portland, OR – May 15, 2013. LeanPath Inc., creators of the patented LeanPath Food Waste Prevention System, is excited to announce the worldwide preview of its next-generation, cloud-based solution at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show, taking place May 18 to 21 in Chicago, IL.
LeanPath will be showcasing its new system in booth #5672 in the Technology Pavilion at the NRA Show. LeanPath Online is a complete system to measure food waste, analyze data and make changes to prevent recurring waste in the future. LeanPath focuses on pre-consumer food waste prevention, understanding that food service operations throw away four to ten percent of food purchases prior to serving them to consumers. The system also includes features to track and minimize post-consumer food waste.
The next generation of the LeanPath Tracker, an automated food waste collection terminal, functions as the foundation for the new system. The new LeanPath Tracker offers a large 10” touch screen, the ability to capture photos of each wasted item, an optimized user interface, and a signage mode which displays waste generation and reduction results to staff instantly. Many of the design changes have been informed by social science findings about human engagement and behavior change, as well as gamification.
“The world has awoken to the immense and fixable challenge of food waste, with source reduction clearly emerging as the optimal strategy,” explains Andrew Shakman, LeanPath co-founder and president. “LeanPath has been at this work for nearly a decade, never wavering from our focus on food waste prevention and minimization, and we’re excited to take things to the next level. This game-changing technology will set a new standard for food waste automation and analytics.”
The data captured at the tracking station is transmitted wirelessly to LeanPath Online, a cloud-based data warehouse where managers and culinary leaders can instantly view comprehensive waste data and insights. The online analytics are organized to make it easy to spot waste reduction opportunities and drill-down to understand specific waste entries. Managers can set up rule-based alerts via text message or e-mail to be notified when, for example, waste levels exceed a certain value. This enables an operator to proactively manage and control food waste in a way that has never been available before.
LeanPath will be previewing the new LeanPath Tracker and LeanPath Online at booth #5672 at the NRA Show. The product will be released in Q4 of 2013.
LeanPath, Inc. provides food waste tracking systems which enable foodservice professionals to dramatically reduce food waste, lower food costs, and operate more sustainable facilities. We partner with customers in 48 states and numerous foodservice segments, including hotels, restaurants, colleges, hospitals, corporate dining facilities, contract management, casinos, military installations, schools, grocery stores and senior living facilities. For more information, visit www.leanpath.com.
A key part of pre-consumer waste reduction is tracking and categorizing your waste daily. Like reconciling the cash drawer, you can’t just do it every so often and assume that it’s the same every other day.
By tracking daily you will begin to identify day-of-the-week trends. Following are a few lessons learned from LeanPath clients.
- Baked Goods—Adjust par levels and distribution plans as the week progresses. Lower par levels toward the end of the work week at locations that will be closed on weekends and become more active in transferring product during the day between locations.
- Grab-n-Go Production—Examine your daily Grab-n-Go waste closely. One LeanPath client discovered that expiration tags containing only a date were being thrown out 24 hours early, so they added a date and time to avoid staff confusion and cut down on waste.
- Specials Stealing the Show—One LeanPath client noticed that waste was exceptionally high every Wednesday. When we dug deeper, we discovered they were running a weekly special station was diverting a large number of sales away from the other static stations. This special station was extremely popular each week, however production levels at the static stations were not being adjusted down to compensate for the shift in demand. By adjusting production levels according to customer preferences, this site dramatically lowered Wednesday waste.
Examining your pre-consumer food waste every day will help you spot trends, make changes and prevent that waste from occurring in the future.
Executive Chef Reuben Sandoval
Laramie County Community College (LCCC) began using the LeanPath System in late August 2012 to track all of its food waste across dining, daycare, catering and the coffee shop. LeanPath sat down with Chef Rueben Sandoval to hear about how they’ve been using the system to reduce food waste.
Tell me a little about your background and role at LCCC.
“I’ve been in foodservice for 12 years—I’ve been a chef for 8 of those years. I’ve worked at the Governor’s Residence, the Denver Country Club, worked independently as a specialty cake designer, as well as volunteered demonstrations for lower-income families, teaching them how to cook and use food properly while reducing waste and cost. Here at LCCC I have various duties—I manage the flow of food, catering, training/staff advisement and maintain/write menus in conjunction with Sodexo standards.”
What are some strategies you’ve used to reduce waste?
“We saw mostly vegetables being wasted so we started figuring out what we could do. If items were expiring in the cooler, how could we curb that from happening? One solution we developed was to blanch the vegetables, cool them and freeze them in storage bags. To prevent fresh herbs from being wasted we started putting herbs into muffin trays, adding just enough water to cover and freezing them. When we thaw them out, they maintain the same flavor and color. We also finely chop herbs, lay them on lined sheet pans and put them on top of the oven—by the end of the day we have dried herbs.”
What changes have you seen in terms of culture?
“Our SWAT [Stop Waste Action Team] is the whole staff—we are all accountable. Every week we post data by the time clock and bring it to meetings and talk about it. We discuss what’s left-over and brainstorm creative recipe solutions daily. The attitude and culture has changed in the kitchen as far as understanding what we’re doing, why we are doing it and holding each other accountable. Where we used to have four dumpsters, now there are two. The staff is aware that by reducing waste, we save money that can then be put toward pay raises, equipment purchases, new or replacement utensils, etc. They are involved and motivated as a team.”
What is the best part about using the LeanPath System?
“The data that comes back—it’s so fantastic. My staff members are visual learners. They want to see if they’ve improved; want to see progression. I can tell them night and day, our numbers are good, food cost is good…but the data print-outs and digital scale with their names on it makes them feel included and shows them that they’re doing a great job.”
In their first three months using the LeanPath System, LCCC reduced pre-consumer food waste by 33%.
Our mission at LeanPath is to “take a bite out of global food waste.” When we started out on this mission back in 2004, not many people were focused on food waste as a serious, global issue. Today the landscape is much different, and food waste is shining bright in the spotlight. Advocates, experts and even political leaders are keeping the issue at the forefront (see article on Chinese president Xi Jinping’s Sudden Concern for Wasting Food).
With the intense focus on the food waste problem comes an equally intense interest in solutions to combat it. The UN Environmental Program recently announced its global Think. Eat. Save. campaign designed to change consumer behavior around food waste. In commercial foodservice, composting and food donation have received a great deal of attention. Unfortunately, waste prevention—not creating the food waste in the first place—tends to get overlooked. Many people wonder “what can I really do to prevent waste?”
Of course, we know that daily food waste tracking represents a hugely powerful strategy which changes culture and reduces waste dramatically. We were excited when LeanPath was recognized recently as an important food waste solution by Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine: Don’t Throw That Out! LeanPath Harnesses Data to Fight Food Waste. The article highlights the great work many of our client partners have been doing to prevent and minimize food waste and their excellent results, including the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. We’re very proud of their accomplishments on the leading edge of food waste reduction. Click here to read the full article.
Looking for creative ways to cut down on food waste? Our field trainers share some best practices from the LeanPath community.
- Transform batch cooking into made-to-order. Too often, batch cooking means “one or two big batches.” This always leads to food waste because you can’t match production to demand. Cook in smaller portions, with the goal of getting as close to cooking-to-order as possible.
- Garnish last. Wait to put the seasonings or sauces on products until right before they go to the line (example: waiting to put a glaze on carrots). This increases re-use opportunities for those carrots and ensures a fresher product.
- Make “half and half” pizzas. During the last hour of the service period, make one pizza with different sets of toppings on each half. You can still accommodate different tastes without creating extra waste.
- Make frozen herb cubes. By freezing fresh herbs in ice cubes, you preserve their color and flavor. You can use just what you need and save the rest for later.
- Encourage proper consumer portioning: Make sure the serving utensils on self-service lines are sized to the correct portion size. Don’t put a large cook’s ladle out when you want your guests to take only 20% of that as a standard portion.
We want to hear from you! Share your tips with the LeanPath community on the LeanPath Facebook Page.