Food Waste at Restaurants / by kevin murray

The United States Department of Labor estimates that in 2010, the average consumer spent $2,505 on eating food away from home, but what of the leftovers and food spoilage that is generated from said restaurants.  While some of us take our leftovers home, many of us don't, and every restaurant has quantities of food that at the end of the day must be disposed of because that food is spoiled, bruised, unpalatable for sales, or for various other reasons.


The simplest thing to do with food waste is to dispose of it through our garbage disposals, through our trash, and through our incinerators and landfills.  Yet, it is important to remember that the essential purpose of food is that it is fuel for the body, consequently we would be far wiser to recognize that throwing away fuel is not an efficient way of dealing with this product.  While there is a lot to be said about having the ability to properly cook, process, and create palatable food plates, there is a responsibility to also knowingly create processes that will deal with the inevitable food waste.


Food waste should be divided between those food items which are still edible by humans but have not passed a restaurant's strict standards for being visibly appealing, or considered to be as fresh or as pleasing to the patron as the restaurant desires.  These food items should then be consciously set aside for food banks and the like for distribution to local neighborhoods as a healthy fresh alternative with standards in place to assure that the food is and remains safe for human consumption.


As for food waste, that is no longer considered to be palatable, safe, or pleasing for human consumption, these food items should be set aside and put into bins in which the intention is to provide this particular food waste for swine or other acceptable livestock.   The food waste should be properly treated so as to not inadvertently create any food related diseases for pigs, and the hog farms utilizing food waste for their animals should be periodically evaluated and certified to verify that the swine are safe and healthy.


All other food waste that isn't practical for either food or swine consumption, should be put into specific food composting bins.  Allowing food waste to go to landfills does not rectify the problem of food waste it only exacerbates it, because of inevitable methane gas that is created from bacteria working through our food waste in which methane is a greenhouse gas which has a global warming potential (GWP) of 21 as compared to carbon dioxide's rating which is only 1.


If these suggested food waste policies become an integrated part of the restaurant business, this will also translate into our own activity at home in which we too will be more cognizant of our own food waste and just like recycling plastic, cardboard, paper, and other products, we will come up with community programs that will help us to be more efficient in the disposal and treatment of our own food byproducts.