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.
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.
Feeding food waste to animals after it is heat treated and dehydrated and either mixed with dry feed or directly fed
A series of biological processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen resulting in two end products: biogas and digestate. There are many different AD technologies, including wet and dry versions, the latter being generally better suited for food waste mixed with yard waste.
Composting is the process of transforming organic waste into humus, a critical component of healthy, fertile soil. In rural areas, this can be accomplished by periodically turning large piles, or windrows, of organic waste over themselves using specialized equipment. In more urban areas, Aerated Static Pile (ASP) composting is generally preferred, where piles can be covered and mechanically aerated in order to minimize the site’s footprint and odors.
Increase the use of direct, point-to-point perishable food shipments from farmers to retailers to reduce the number of stops a product makes in transit and develop a cold chain certification standard for food carriers
An on-site treatment technology, greywater aerobic digesters use combinations of nutrients or enzymes and bacteria to break food organics down until soluble, where it is flushed into the sewage system
Transporting food from homes by truck, car, or bicycle to small, community, or neighborhood-level compost facilities that process 2,500 tons per year on average
Conducting large-scale advocacy campaigns to raise awareness and educate consumers about ways to save money and prevent wasted food.
Educating potential food donors on donation liability laws
Using technology platforms to connect individual food donors with recipient organizations to reach smaller-scale food donations
Expanding temperature-controlled food distribution infrastructure (e.g. refrigeration, warehouses) and labor availability to handle (e.g. process, package) additional food donation volume
Expanding federal tax benefits for food donations to all businesses and simplifying donation reporting for tax deductions
Providing small-scale transportation infrastructure for local recovery as well as long-haul transport capabilities
Keeping a small bin or pile for on-site waste at residential buildings to be managed locally; also known as "backyard composting"
Improvements in the ability of retail inventory management systems to track an average product’s remaining shelf-life (time left to sell an item) and inform efforts to reduce days on hand (how long an item has gone unsold)
Composting at small-scale at institutions or businesses with heat and mechanical power to compost relatively quickly (less than one month versus more than two months for windrow composting)
Target systemic and sporadic waste generation by optimizing equipment operating conditions (e.g. determining the most efficient run settings), addressing production line design flaws, modifying production schedules to minimize changeovers, and identifying novel ways to repurpose discarded food for sale
Modifying packaging sizes and designs to optimize consumer consumption and avoid residual container waste
Accepting and integrating the sale of off-grade produce (short shelf life, different size/shape/color), also known as "imperfect produce", into food business menu planning and product lines
Opening retail stores and creating dedicated market environments to sell discounted groceries sourced from food manufacturers and distributors
Using smaller-sized plates in all-you-can-eat dining establishments to minimize consumer food waste
Packaging technologies that actively slow fruit and meat spoilage through ethylene absorption and other techniques
Standardizing food label dates, including eliminating visible “sell by” dates, to reduce consumer confusion
Standardizing local and state health department regulations for safe handling and donation of food through federal policy
Eliminating trays in all-you-can-eat dining facilities to reduce over-portioning by consumers
Building processing infrastructure equipment and facilities to freeze or convert donated or excess food into products such as soups, sauces, and jams
Providing restaurants and food service providers with data on wasteful practices to inform behavioral and operational changes
Delivering waste by truck or through existing sink disposal pipes to a municipal water resource recovery facility (WRRF), where it is treated with anaerobic digestion; the remaining biosolids can be applied to land for beneficial reuse
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