“We know the restaurant industry produces its share of food waste and wanted to be a part of the solution rather than a source of the problem.” That was the response given by Laura Abshire, the National Restaurant Association’s director of sustainability policy and government affairs, when addressing why the NRA has started working with the Food Waste Reduction Alliance to cut down on food waste.
The FWRA is an initiative by three major industry representatives to reduce food waste through prevention, redistribution, and diversion, with the NRA representing the restaurant industry. In speaking of the NRA’s role in the organization, Abshire emphasized that being a part of the FWRA “is a win-win for us, and our industry,” specifically noting that by reducing and diverting food waste, restaurateurs can cut back on operating costs and even generate new revenue streams.
Abshire has high hopes for the NRA-FWRA connection in over the coming years, but for now the NRA is trying to collect data on restaurant food waste to zero in on how to reduce it. At LeanPath, we know that data collection is the first step in reducing food waste, so it looks like the NRA is on its way to significant food waste savings.
Click here to read the full interview with Laura Abshire.
Getting the Most Out of Your Food Waste Reduction Efforts
As we head into the busy holiday season, you sadly don’t have to go very far to encounter wasted food. While holidays make the issue more evident at home, with refrigerators soon to be stuffed with platters of Thanksgiving left-overs, this is a year-round issue that those of us in foodservice can’t afford to ignore.
As you look ahead to your sustainability plans and food waste initiatives for 2014, it’s important to focus on a comprehensive strategy to the problem, which includes both landfill diversion and waste prevention. For LeanPath clients, you’ve seen firsthand that it is possible to prevent much of your food waste at the source, so you can reduce the amount you are composting or otherwise diverting. For those focused on diversion, it’s a great first step, but it is important to hone in on both areas.
In late October, Foodservice Equipment & Supplies ran a Q&A article where I had the opportunity to delve into the important differences between waste diversion and prevention, changes in the regulatory landscape, the definition of zero waste and more. Click here to read the article.
From the archives: as interest in food waste continues to grow, we want to share this slightly older but still very relevant material from Food Network.
The Food Network gave food waste the spotlight in their series “The Big Waste,” which focuses on the astounding amount of food waste produced in the United States every year. The premise of the show is simple: pit two two-chef teams against each other in a competition to see who can create the most delicious dishes using only ingredients that were at some point deemed unsuitable for sale. As the show highlights, these ingredients are things like eggs that were too big or too small to fit in an egg carton, perfectly edible poultry with torn skin or broken wings, and produce with small blemishes, among much, much more.
The show’s message is loud and clear: our standards for what constitutes inedible food are sorely misguided. Hopefully, “The Big Waste” has changed some preconceptions about food waste and will provoke thought and conversation about food waste habits.
To watch a few short videos from the series, click here.
UK-based supermarket giant Tesco published data on its food waste last month, revealing just how much food is wasted on the journey from farm to table. The study measured the waste footprint of 25 of Tesco’s best-selling products, examining waste that occurred in the store as well as waste caused by customers after they bought the food. Tesco reported that its stores and distribution centers generated 28,500 tons of food waste in the first half of this year, and though the absolute quantities of waste are astounding, the percentage of food items that is wasted is the real issue: of all the bagged salad Tesco puts out for purchase, 68% ends up in the trash; 40% of all apples get thrown away; 47% of bakery items never make it to the table; the list goes on.
Tesco is the first major UK supermarket to publish these figures, and it begs the question: how much are other retailers wasting? If recent numbers from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) are any indication, it must be substantial—WRAP estimated in 2011 that the UK generates 15 million metric tons of food waste each year.
Thankfully, it appears that Tesco’s report shocked the company just as much as it did the public. Tesco is taking action to reduce food waste in its supermarkets by doing things like ending multi-buys on large bags of salad and removing “display until” labels from fruits and vegetables.
This recent coverage emphasizes the urgency for supermarkets and retailers to focus on food waste prevention. While many stores have systems in place to quantify throw at a high level, they are missing out on two critical components: building a waste-aware culture and providing the data granularity that is necessary to enact change. LeanPath recently co-presented a webinar with a supermarket in Minnesota that successfully initiated a food waste prevention program to turn around its deli operation. You can access it on demand here: http://www.leanpath.com/free-resources/. (Preventing Supermarket Food Waste: A Case Study from Lueken’s Village Foods)
Read more about Tesco’s food waste figures here, and see what they’re doing to improve them here.
The notion that measurement is key to reducing food waste recently came to the forefront of the food waste prevention movement, as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Resources Institute (WRI) endorsed measurement as the essential first step on the path to food waste reduction. These two leading organizations in the food waste movement advocate for a standardized system for monitoring and measuring food waste, which if implemented globally could yield promising results.
Measure Twice, Cut Food Waste
The Global Food Loss and Waste Protocol, which will be coordinated by the WRI, seeks to provide a globally consistent method for companies and countries alike to address the challenges of measuring food waste. Some of the guidelines that the Protocol will provide include what definitions to use, what to measure, what measurement methods are appropriate, and what data sources should be used, among many others. These standards offer multiple benefits, answering questions about quantity of food loss, methodology of measurement, and reasons behind food waste.
The future of the Protocol looks promising, partly because it was endorsed by Director-General of the FAO José Graziano da Silva. Speaking to participants at the Global Green Growth Forum earlier this month, he explained, “Fighting food loss and waste is clearly one area in which partnership is needed. Developing a global protocol can help provide clear measurements and indicators on which we can base guidance on how to reduce food loss and waste.”
Measurement is Key
The talk of implementing a measurement protocol by the WRI and subsequent endorsement of it by the FAO confirms what we at LeanPath have believed since our inception almost ten years ago: measurement is the central enabling intervention to prevent and minimize food waste at the source. The WRI webpage for the Protocol underscores this perspective by asking, “If one does not know how much or where food loss and waste is occurring, how can one take action to reduce it?” The simple answer is that you can’t succeed without information to guide your quest. Food waste opponents need to define the problem as specifically as possible in order to make change in the right ways, and to be sure the modification is both working and being maintained over time.
The benefits of measuring food waste are not just environmental—they are financial as well. For businesses looking to save money, measuring food waste allows them to adjust food purchasing and production and reallocate the funds they save to other higher value areas. With the boost to a business’ bottom line, the positive impact on the environment, and the endorsement on an international level, it’s clear: the time to start measuring food waste is now.
The New Generation of Food Waste Prevention Solutions
Today marks an exciting milestone for LeanPath: the release of our LeanPath 360 Food Waste Prevention System. You may have caught wind of this when we announced an “advance preview” of the system at the 2013 National Restaurant Association Show. Since then, we’ve been advancing, testing and refining the system, and now I’m thrilled to announce the official launch and availability of LeanPath 360!
This new generation of LeanPath builds on everything we’ve learned in helping foodservice operators measure and prevent food waste for almost ten years. It provides a complete 360-degree view of an operation’s food waste and makes that information visible not only to management but also to front-line employees. For the first time, operators can see a remarkably detailed and useful view of food waste and, with certain product editions, receive food waste “alerts” immediately, allowing them to make the right moves to prevent waste. It also includes many features to engage staff in a fun and supportive way, like built-in gaming that resembles a lottery game, which is essential to gaining team buy-in.
The new LeanPath 360 features the LeanPath Tracker 2.0, a completely updated, state-of-the-art touch-screen tracking terminal which includes a built-in camera and transmits waste data in real time via a wireless or wired connection. That waste information is sent from the Tracker 2.0 to LeanPath Online, our new cloud-based analytics platform, where operators can view their waste reduction progress and opportunities from anywhere, any time.
Existing LeanPath customers will receive a complimentary upgrade to LeanPath Online analytics early in 2014, which will integrate with existing LeanPath Tracker 1.0 equipment to provide significant access to the LeanPath 360 capabilities. We will be reaching out to you in December to discuss these upgrade specifics.
To see how LeanPath 360 works, take a minute to view our video. This is a major advancement in the battle to prevent food waste, and we are honored to partner with our current and future clients to take a bite out of this global challenge.
To read the full press release, click here.
The National Restaurant Association recently released it’s first sustainability report, which explores the sustainability movement and the restaurant industry’s role in it. Called “Shedding Light on Sustainability,” the report covers topics like how the industry is becoming more waste-conscious and resource-efficient through its sustainability initiatives, how the NRA’s Conserve Sustainability Advisory Council is helping shape those initiatives, and why it’s important for the restaurant industry to be a leading force in sustainability.
“Sustainability and waste reduction are increasingly important issues across the restaurant and foodservice industry,” said Scott DeFife, the NRA’s executive vice president of policy and government affairs. “The National Restaurant Association is working to ensure operators have access to the education, tools and training needed to adopt successful and cost-effective sustainability best practices into their business models.”
More and more consumers are preferring dining operations that are sustainable, and through its various programs, the restaurant industry is adapting to meet these heightened expectations. However, the report emphasizes that the industry’s interest in increasing sustainability goes far beyond consumer demand. Restaurants are not only providing locally-sourced and organic foods because diners want them, but also because “chefs and restaurateurs are genuinely committed from a culinary perspective to learning about, sourcing, and sometimes even growing, these products themselves.”
You can download the report here.
LeanPath’s Ryan Mykita will be hosting a web seminar on October 29 that will focus on industry-specific strategies to reduce food waste in hospitality and gaming operations. Pre-consumer food waste (e.g. overproduction, spoilage, expiration) is especially detrimental to these types of businesses’ bottom line, not to mention to their sustainable image.
Since the path to food waste prevention begins with a kitchen culture that centers on waste reduction, we will discuss techniques for building a team that is engaged and committed to being part of the food waste solution and share stories of how other hospitality and gaming businesses are building food waste-fighting cultures in their kitchens.
Here’s a sample of what you will learn from the discussion:
- How to develop a Stop Waste Action Team (SWAT) comprised of internal waste “champions”
- How to lead positive, effective staff meetings that foster food waste awareness
- How using data to track food waste can take your operation even further
The webinar will take place on Tuesday, October 29, at 1:00 pm PST/4:00 pm EST and will last 30 minutes.
Click here to learn more, or register for the webinar by following this link:
Materials engineers at the Colorado School of Mines recently discovered a new way to meet the world demand for glass: harvest the minerals necessary to make it from discarded food waste.
For the engineers, the process is fairly simple: after collecting the food waste, they grind it up in industrial blenders, dry it, then crush it into a fine white powder that contains pure minerals like silica and other oxides. The powder is then placed in an oven heated to 3,000 degrees, which melts it into a molten red liquid. Once the scientists take this substance out of the oven, it cools and morphs into glass.
Typically, miners collect the materials needed to make glass from large open-pit mines around the world. However, the team at the School of Mines thinks their breakthrough in Colorado could put an end to this. “There’s no reason to continue mining, destroying the environment, when we can find many of the materials we need from waste,” explains materials engineer Ivan Cornejo. He believes that the current volume of wasted food coupled with his team’s new process of turning garbage to glass could meet the rising global demand for glass, which requires 36 million tons of silica.
Beyond pushing the boundaries of scientific innovation, Cornejo hopes that his process will make a positive impact on climate change by diverting food waste from landfills, and ideally will change our ideas about mining as the primary method to acquire minerals. The next step for him and his team is cataloging other minerals that could be mined from different sources.
To read more about turning food waste into glass, click here.
If you knew you were being monitored, would you change certain aspects of your behavior? You would, according to the Hawthorne effect, an idea that holds that people alter their behavior when they sense they are being observed. A recent study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University confirmed this theory when it measured the energy usage of a group of utility customers who had been notified that their energy usage would be monitored for one month as part of an experiment.
The study had a basic premise: compare the energy-use habits of one group whose members had been notified of the experiment against a control group that was unaware of the study. Unsurprisingly, the study found that those who knew their energy usage was being monitored reduced their electricity consumption by an average of 2.7 percent. However, once the group thought the study had concluded, its member’s electricity usage increased to its former levels.
I have experience working in energy efficiency before I joined LeanPath. And while the results of the CMU study are specific to energy usage, I believe the same is true for monitoring food waste. Through our work at LeanPath with colleges, hospitals and hotels across the country we’ve found time and again that simply by placing a tracking station in the kitchen, you immediately change behavior. It doesn’t have to be a negative situation, where people feel like they are going to be reprimanded for waste. In fact, we advise quite the opposite: keep the program positive and fun, but make sure that everyone knows you are focused on reducing as much waste as possible and encourage everyone to be a part of the solution.
In the same way this study found that electricity usage increased to former levels after the study was complete, we also advise that monitoring food waste should be something you do each and every day. Food waste audits can provide an understanding of the scope of the issue, but they are not as effective in changing behaviors.
If you’re not tracking food waste yet, now’s the time to start! Download free resources on our web site or contact a LeanPath expert for ideas and support at firstname.lastname@example.org.