Did you know that perishable food waste contributes eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions? When we think of fresh food waste and sustainability, oftentimes commentary about the issue focuses on food that is not being used to feed the hungry or wasted food taking up space in landfills. But what happens to waste once it’s in the landfill? Perishable food waste produces greenhouse gases…a lot of greenhouse gases.

The Impact of Fresh Food Waste

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, The Climate Impact of the Food in the Back of Your Fridge, discusses the impact of waste on the climate. The author, Chad Frischmann of Project Drawdown, writes “If food waste were a country, it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of impact on global warming.” On Drawdown’s website, reducing food waste ranks third on their list of solutions to reduce greenhouse gases. Solving this problem, according to Drawdown’s estimate, would result in saving us 70.53 gigatons of reduced CO2. (The prefix “giga” means 109, or one billion (1,000,000,000).)

Think about that for a moment. How many of us realize the scope and impact of this fresh food waste problem? Probably not many.

We’re wasting food that could be used to feed the hungry. Growers and grocers are tossing away food and profits which go to the landfill and contribute to climate change. And, as Frischmann correctly adds, “the emissions that resulted from producing and processing, packaging, shipping, storing, picking up and cooking are also wasted,” further exacerbating the problem.

Frischmann writes:  Project Drawdown’s team of researchers ranked solutions to global warming; to our surprise, we discovered that cutting down on food waste could have nearly the same impact on reducing emissions over the next three decades as onshore wind turbines. More than 70 billion tons of greenhouse gases could be prevented from being released into the atmosphere. It represents one of the greatest possibilities for individuals, companies and communities to contribute to reversing global warming and at the same time feed more people, increase economic benefits and preserve threatened ecosystems.

Tackling the Perishable Food Waste Problem

Leaders in the perishable food industry – growers, suppliers, processors and retailers – have an opportunity to help tackle this problem in a significant way. The first step is to change the way we think about the supply chain. Wasting thirty to forty percent of our food no longer should be considered an unavoidable part of doing business. In what other industry would we put up with such heavy losses and poor performance? Once we accept that we can solve this problem, we can utilize technology to identify where waste is occurring between the field, the store and the consumer.

The cause of perishable food waste starts in the field at harvest. Using technology like IoT sensors to collect data at the pallet level and predictive analytics, we can both identify the causes of waste and mitigate it by employing new inventory management models, such as intelligent pallet routing, to ensure all pallets are delivered to grocers with sufficient freshness for sell-through and consumption by the consumer. Using this technology to analyze the supply chain and manage inventory can reduce waste by 50% or more. That’s 50% less waste going into landfills and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a great way to be a pioneer in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and it has benefits to the environment as well as the bottom line.

Learn more by reading our Proactive Freshness Management whitepaper.