Retail Secrets to Trashing Less Food

More retailers are taking a hard look at how much spoiled or outdated foods are sent to landfills.

July 20, 2021

Bio Compostable Food in Bag

SCARBOROUGH, Maine—More retailers are embracing a “waste not” attitude toward food, with the goal of sending less and less spoiled or outdated foods to landfills, The Counter reports. This shift comes as at least eight states have laws that mandate reprocessing food waste to keep it from the trash as well as reducing greenhouse gases produced from the food rotting in landfills.

Earlier this year, one food retailer, Hannaford Supermarkets, announced it hadn’t sent any food to landfills for an entire year through its contract with an anaerobic food reprocessor, which removes packaging and then mixes food with manure and microbes to repackage it as bedding for dairy cows, fuel or fertilizer.

Hannaford health and sustainability expert George Parmenter said the chain had been moving in the direction of processing food waste in an environmentally friendly way for years. “We had a plan, eight or nine years ago, to work on food waste and get our arms around it and deal with it in a methodical way,” he said.

Many food retailers and foodservice operators also donate past use-by dated but still edible food to anti-hunger charities and food banks. Others advocate preventing food waste altogether. Jennifer Molidor, senior food campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity stated, “The No. 1 thing is prevention. … If you don’t waste food, you don’t have to worry about landfills.”

Landfill food waste is the third largest producer of methane emissions in the United States, according to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2021, 18 state legislatures are considering more than 50 measures on the issue of food waste management, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

New Jersey and Maryland recently adopted laws that address the issue. Maryland now requires food facilities that generate more than two tons of food waste each week to separate it from other trash and keep it out of landfills by January 2023, with facilities generating one ton per week having until January 2024. The New Jersey law, which goes into effect this fall, mandates food waste from prisons, hospitals, grocery stores and restaurants recycle it.

To learn more about how retailers across the nation are minimizing food waste, read “Waste Not, Want Not” in NACS Magazine.