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    Food waste is a solvable problem

    Food Waste Solutions

    ReFED has identified 27 of the best opportunities to reduce food waste through a detailed economic analysis. The solutions were analyzed using the EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy — which prioritizes prevention first, then recovery, and finally recycling — as a starting point. Additional filters of economic value and feasibility were incorporated to understand the potential for scaling solutions.

    Scroll down to explore the individual solutions.

    Food Recovery Hierarchy

    PREVENTION Stopping waste from occurring in the first place RECOVERY Redistributing food to people RECYCLING Repurposing waste as energy, agricultural, and other products 12 solutions 7 solutions 8 solutions

    Rearrange Solutions By...

    • Financial Benefit
    • Waste Diverted
    • Emissions Reduced
    • Water Saved
    • Jobs Created
    • Meals Recovered

    The aggregate financial benefit to society (consumers, businesses, governments, and other stakeholders) minus all investment and costs per ton of food waste diverted. It shows the amount of benefit received per ton of reduction and is calculated as the Economic Value per Ton.

    Animal Feed

    Feeding food waste to animals after it is heat treated and dehydrated and either mixed with dry feed or...

    $-52 /ton
    in financial benefit

    49 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    34 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    0 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Top Rated Solution:
    Largest Waste Diverted
    Most Jobs Created

    Centralized Anaerobic Digestion (AD)

    A series of biological processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen resulting in...

    $21 /ton
    in financial benefit

    1,884 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    1,179 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    0 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    1,933
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Top Rated Solution:
    Largest Waste Diverted
    Greatest GHG Reduction
    Most Jobs Created

    Centralized Composting

    Composting is the process of transforming organic waste into humus, a critical component of healthy, fertile soil. In rural...

    $4 /ton
    in financial benefit

    5,037 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    2,605 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    0 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    9,000
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Cold Chain Management

    Increase the use of direct, point-to-point perishable food shipments from farmers to retailers to reduce the number of stops...

    $1,816 /ton
    in financial benefit

    18 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    62 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    6 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Commercial Greywater

    An on-site treatment technology, greywater aerobic digesters use combinations of nutrients or enzymes and bacteria to break food organics...

    $33 /ton
    in financial benefit

    595 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    0 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    0 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Community Composting

    Transporting food from homes by truck, car, or bicycle to small, community, or neighborhood-level compost facilities that process 2,500...

    $-34 /ton
    in financial benefit

    167 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    163 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    0 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    230
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Top Rated Solution:
    Most Cost Effective
    Greatest GHG Reduction
    Most Water Saved

    Consumer Education Campaigns

    Conducting large-scale advocacy campaigns to raise awareness and educate consumers about ways to save money and prevent wasted food...

    $4,531 /ton
    in financial benefit

    584 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    2,336 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    281 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Donation Liability Education

    Educating potential food donors on donation liability laws

    $2,810 /ton
    in financial benefit

    57 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    95 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    210 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    27 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Top Rated Solution:
    Most Meals Recovered

    Donation Matching Software

    Using technology platforms to connect individual food donors with recipient organizations to reach smaller-scale food donations

    $2,879 /ton
    in financial benefit

    150 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    250 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    555 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    72 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Top Rated Solution:
    Most Jobs Created

    Donation Storage & Handling

    Expanding temperature-controlled food distribution infrastructure (e.g. refrigeration, warehouses) and labor availability to handle (e.g. process, package) additional food donation...

    $2,366 /ton
    in financial benefit

    103 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    172 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    381 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    50 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    2,145
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Top Rated Solution:
    Most Meals Recovered

    Donation Tax Incentives

    Expanding federal tax benefits for food donations to all businesses and simplifying donation reporting for tax deductions

    $1,230 /ton
    in financial benefit

    383 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    638 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    874 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    110 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Donation Transportation

    Providing small-scale transportation infrastructure for local recovery as well as long-haul transport capabilities

    $2,294 /ton
    in financial benefit

    110 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    183 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    407 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    53 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    1,604
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Home Composting

    Keeping a small bin or pile for on-site waste at residential buildings to be managed locally; also known as...

    $149 /ton
    in financial benefit

    97 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    53 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    0 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Improved Inventory Management

    Improvements in the ability of retail inventory management systems to track an average product’s remaining shelf-life (time left to...

    $1,194 /ton
    in financial benefit

    59 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    181 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    20 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    In-Vessel Composting

    Composting at small-scale at institutions or businesses with heat and mechanical power to compost relatively quickly (less than one...

    $-95 /ton
    in financial benefit

    12 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    34 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    0 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Manufacturing Line Optimization

    Target systemic and sporadic waste generation by optimizing equipment operating conditions (e.g. determining the most efficient run settings), addressing...

    $1,770 /ton
    in financial benefit

    20 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    61 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    7 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Top Rated Solution:
    Most Cost Effective

    Packaging Adjustments

    Modifying packaging sizes and designs to optimize consumer consumption and avoid residual container waste

    $3,443 /ton
    in financial benefit

    208 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    830 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    100 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Produce Specifications (Imperfect Produce)

    Accepting and integrating the sale of off-grade produce (short shelf life, different size/shape/color), also known as "imperfect produce", into...

    $1,039 /ton
    in financial benefit

    266 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    422 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    39 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Secondary Resellers

    Opening retail stores and creating dedicated market environments to sell discounted groceries sourced from food manufacturers and distributors

    $218 /ton
    in financial benefit

    167 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    510 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    58 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Smaller Plates

    Using smaller-sized plates in all-you-can-eat dining establishments to minimize consumer food waste

    $2,147 /ton
    in financial benefit

    178 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    711 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    86 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Spoilage Prevention Packaging

    Packaging technologies that actively slow fruit and meat spoilage through ethylene absorption and other techniques

    $2,326 /ton
    in financial benefit

    72 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    329 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    44 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Top Rated Solution:
    Most Cost Effective
    Most Water Saved

    Standardized Date Labeling

    Standardizing food label dates, including eliminating visible “sell by” dates, to reduce consumer confusion

    $4,547 /ton
    in financial benefit

    398 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    1,593 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    192 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Top Rated Solution:
    Most Meals Recovered

    Standardized Donation Regulation

    Standardizing local and state health department regulations for safe handling and donation of food through federal policy

    $2,863 /ton
    in financial benefit

    193 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    322 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    714 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    93 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Trayless Dining

    Eliminating trays in all-you-can-eat dining facilities to reduce over-portioning by consumers

    $2,253 /ton
    in financial benefit

    83 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    332 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    40 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Value-Added Processing

    Building processing infrastructure equipment and facilities to freeze or convert donated or excess food into products such as soups,...

    $2,783 /ton
    in financial benefit

    102 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    171 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    299 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    38 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    153
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Top Rated Solution:
    Greatest GHG Reduction
    Most Water Saved

    Waste Tracking & Analytics

    Providing restaurants and food service providers with data on wasteful practices to inform behavioral and operational changes

    $2,282 /ton
    in financial benefit

    571 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    2,306 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    317 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    0
    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Top Rated Solution:
    Largest Waste Diverted

    Water Resources Recovery Facility (WRRF) with AD

    Delivering waste by truck or through existing sink disposal pipes to a municipal water resource recovery facility (WRRF), where...

    $23 /ton
    in financial benefit

    1,637 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    728 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    0 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    100
    jobs created

    Learn How >

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