We all know about the food pyramid that shows what we should be eating for a
nutritious meal. But have you ever heard of the food recovery pyramid?
This lesser-known – but just as useful – food figure explains how to reduce food waste.
It’s applicable to every stage of the supply chain, but especially pertinent to individual
consumers and those working in the retail since estimates are that those levels
comprise 80 percent of all food loss.
By learning about the Environmental Protection Agency’s most-preferred steps in its
food recovery diagram, every one of us has the power to save 300 pounds of food from
being tossed in the trash each year!
The EPA’s food recovery hierarchy prioritizes steps to prevent food from getting
discarded, and emphasizes that landfills or incinerators should be a last resort.
Although many people think composting is the best way to reuse food scraps, there’s a
lot of work we can do before we even visit a grocery store. And the first step is learning
about the issue.
1. Reduce unnecessary food production.
Food producers plant more food than necessary as a safeguard against unknown
factors such as pests, disease or weather that could affect the harvest. This extra
food can get tossed out producers can’t find an interested buyer. The first step in
reducing food waste is to only produce food that will actually be used. High
Pressure Processing is an effective step to extend product shelf life – even
doubling it – thus reducing the need for overproducing because of spoilage.
2. Feed your neighbors.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 13 percent of American
households had difficulty supplying their families with food in 2015. An important
step in ensuring extra food gets used includes donating it to food banks and non-
profit organizations, instead of letting it rot in landfills.
3. Feed Fido (and his friends).
Extra food is also useful as animal feed since it’s often less expensive to
repurpose food scraps into animal food rather than sending it to landfills. Scraps
of unsellable food and protein can be blended into animal feed additives for pet
food, saving farmers and zoos money.
4. Support alternative energy sources.
Food waste can also be used to produce heat, electricity and fuel. Decomposing
food scraps go through anaerobic digestion during which microorganisms break
down organic materials. This process produces biogas, which is similar to natural
gas, and soil amendments that are useful as fertilizers.
5. Last chance for relevance – compost the scraps.
After the above options are exhausted, the last step to use food scraps is
composting. Collecting food scraps for composting helps improve soil for the next
generation of crops, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. These options can help us divert food waste and keep refrigerated products on shelves