Stop & Shop wants to stop wasting waste

The Herald reports Stop & Shop wants to build a "product recovery operation" that will turn 95 tons of spoiled food a day into electricity, heat and fertilizer at its Freetown distribution center.

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      this is great!

      By on

      This is a great solution to waste, but we should also ask ourselves, why are we waisting 95 TONS of food per DAY.

      I know a good portion is donated, but we shouldn't be producing that much. Imagine all that water, fertilizer, feed, diesel going to waste only for the product to get tossed.

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      Business

      Stop and Shop would rather not waste anything but they can't predict buying habits and have found that the cost to them of running out of an item or not having it is more expensive then buying/producing excess of an item.

      Seeing as how most of the items which would go to waste need refrigeration or are past their expiration date, donation isn't an option. (They can't give away food which is spoiled.)

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      95 Tons Per Day

      By on

      While it's commendable that they're recycling waste to a useful purpose, 95 tons per day seems like a staggering amount of food to destroy when so many people still go hungry. The store claims that this food is unfit for consumption and that they'll keep donating the same amount of (not quite unfit for consumption) food to charity, but you have to wonder, since they'll now have an expensive recovery plant with its insatiable appetite to feed. It's a shame they didn't tackle the problem by trying to reduce the amount of food that needs to be destroyed in the first place.

      May be beyond their control

      A fair amount of produce and products arrive damaged or rotting. There are delays in shipping, produce is picked at different stages of ripeness, stuff gets damaged in handling and transport, etc. They can only do so much to prevent this by working with suppliers.

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      But here's the thing...

      By on

      They are destroying 95 tons per day whether they put it in a landfill or use it to power their distribution center. There's no reason to believe they are going to destroy more. This isn't the most efficient use of their food. It's just a slightly more efficient use of their waste. In that margin, over a long period of time, they will gain their cost back on the building of the power plant.

      Most of the food they donate is not perishable. It's canned, powdered, etc. They would have to get to the food itself in order to use it in a decomposition power plant. There's no reason to think they'd change their donation habits to "get at more food" that they could have otherwise donated.

      Also, as far as reducing the food that has to be destroyed. You have a point, but the only way that would happen is to completely remove things like the distribution center and the way we've turned produce into a mass consumer good. You can't use automatic harvesting methods which can damage crops or grab immature with mature fruits/vegetables. You can't use automated washing/packing stations which can damage goods or miss something about to rot which could destroy an entire box of produce when it arrives at distribution. Stop-and-Shop couldn't do any sort of product preparation process, like butchering meat or pre-slicing mushrooms, because there's always a portion that won't get served. There are a lot of ways that produce can be discarded legitimately. If they could sell it at distribution, they would have. Otherwise, it's not just waste, but it's financial loss as well.

      So, there has to be a portion of the entire process that results in an acceptable financial loss that they could have sold but didn't and ultimately destroyed instead...for them to increase donation and decrease destruction and have any effect on people going hungry. I'm betting those margins are as controlled as possible for them to continue making money. Also, for us to criticize them for it would mean that we couldn't continue to throw away those last 2-3 carrots or celery in the drawer because we didn't use them fast enough.

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      maybe consumer habits need to change

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      just because an apple is dropped on the floor and bruised, doesn't mean it isn't edible.

      Last week I watched (at shaws, but I have seen this at multiple stores) a stocker drop 5-6 eggplants. They were immediately discarded instead of returned to the shelf. I don't blame the supermarket for this because they only want to show off the appearance of the most fresh and best produce, but aside from cosmetic damage, there was nothing wrong with those eggplant.

      I know from experience that

      By on

      I know from experience that most grocery stores could do a lot more to make sure perishable food gets donated instead of thrown away.

      Your experience is worthless

      By on

      Perishable food is not donated primarily because it is not accepted due to the risk of storage and contamination for the receiving charity.

      Nobody has beaten this problem yet

      In Britain in the last 12 months, all the major food retailers (Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury) have started very public pushes to try to increase awareness of food waste due to spoilage and try to limit their losses. Tesco estimates they have 60,000 tons per annum of waste (I can't find the financial cost of this waste off the top of my head, but it was something like Ā£1bn/year). There were stories about national attempts to tackle this problem in the Mexican press in 2008 or '09 and in France before that (I forget when, but it can't have been too long ago). Nobody has yet figured out a solution to the spoilage problem on the front end, so the best we seem able to do as a species is try to deal with the waste produced.

      If this problem were easily fixable, one assumes that businesses absorbing this level of loss on a regular basis would have found a solution. The fact that they still seem only to be nibbling at the edges should tell us a lot about how intractable it is.

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      I read an article about a

      I read an article about a year ago that 50 percent of all food is wasted. And this was in Europe. I cynically think that number is higher in the United States.

      I also remember reading that profit margins at supermarkets are about 1%--in other words, extremely low. I wonder how much of this high overhead is due to food spoilage and loss (theft, or being damaged by customers.)

      While this move by Stop & Shop isn't going to solve the problem of wasted food, at least the food isn't simply ending up in a landfill. I hope they are able to get the permits and are able to move forward with this project.

      Do they have an "expiring

      By on

      Do they have an "expiring soon" section with large discounts?

      I found that it's a huge hit in the Fresh and Easy chain out west. Products get marked down 50, 75 or 90% depending on the sell by date. Theyre all put together in one fridge.

      Making dinner as soon as you get home? No need to shop anywhere else but that section.

      Check The Used Produce Rack

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      It's always worth taking a look at the used produce rack; at Shop & Stop it's typically in the back corner of the store behind the produce area and/or near the deli counter. Not always, but sometimes you'll find an assortment of vegetables; tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, etc.; with which you can make a fabulous pasta sauce.

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      Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good

      By on

      i find it amusing that some of the critics would rather wait for someone somewhere (not them) to come up with an idea on how to net less wasted food, rather than to do something in the immediate future about the waste that exists day to day.

      i hesitate to even question what practices these critics use to minimize food waste in their own homes, and what their reaction would be if they went to purchase a fresh item for a recipe and found it out of stock, or purchased a highly discounted almost perished item and became ill from it.

      it's very altruistic to say we should push further, but why do nothing in the interim? are we suddenly experts in the supply and distribution chain in north america? Are any of us here long haul truckers or distribution center managers or in agribusiness?

      I hate to break the news but even small local farms (which i patronize as well) waste a great deal as they cant grow and harvest only what there is a demand for that week.

      Unless we all want to pay 5.00 a carrot because we insist upon a false scarcity of them, I suggest we support the endeavor. Perhaps many of the Freetown area's laid off Shaw's employees could be hired by Stop & Shop at this plant.

      Minimizing Food Waste At Home

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      I wasn't as opposed to the recycling project as I was taken aback by the volume of wasted food.

      Since you asked, I think I do a pretty good job of minimizing food waste in my own home. It starts with not purchasing more than I'll use before it goes bad. I never go to the store with a "recipe list" or with intentions of seeking out any particular fresh ingredient. Instead, I look to see what fresh items the store has, and if they're a good value; taking advantage of whatever happens to be in season and in plentiful supply. When purchasing meat, I always check the freshness date and make sure it fits within my plans to cook it.

      Personally, I think the overuse of recipes is, ...well, a recipe for food waste on many levels. To meet some customers' expectations, the stores stock too many different kinds of items all year 'round, often priced so high that most people can't afford or just won't buy them. Additionally, shoppers on a mission to acquire a long list of ingredients may wind up purchasing larger quantities than they'll ever actually use. If instead, you stock your kitchen with simple staple ingredients, it's easier to make up dishes and meals from whatever fresh items you happen to have on hand. Consequently, you'll use up those things before they have a chance to spoil.

      Reinventing leftovers can be more appetizing than it sounds. Using a round, flattened piece of dough, you can make a lot more than just pizza. Rice and beans, meat and potatoes, virtually anything you have left over can become an entirely new meal when baked on a nice crust. I'll make a batch of dough once a week, keep separate pieces in the refrigerator, and use it later for various things. (this also eliminates buying and potentially wasting stale bread) Before they perish, I'll use vegetables to make soup or pasta sauce, and freeze some of it. I rarely buy condiments or other processed food that has a specific expiration date.

      I'm sure other people have more hints and suggestions that work for their particular tastes and lifestyles. But since you posed the question, what techniques do you use in your home to minimize food waste?

      IMAGE(http://elmercatdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/img_5002.jpg)
      Leftovers Baked on a Sourdough Crust with Bean-Vegetable Soup

      Clean Out The Fridge Soup

      Our strategy for trying to cut waste is to make a pot of soup roughly once a week using up all the odds and ends we can. This week it included some chicken, carrots, cabbage and parsnips. We could probably also have tossed in the leftover beats, but I wasn't sure how it'd work out and my GF isn't a huge fan of them anyway. If the pot is >50% meat, we toss in a couple of finely chopped habaƱeros and call it chili.

      We also compost everything we reasonably can. It's less optimal than not having the waste, but there are things like egg shells and apple cores that were going to end up in the bin no matter what, so there's not much sense in feeling bad about it.