Blog Post

Mitigating food waste is a complex problem for food distributors, often the result of inconsistencies in forecasting demand and uncontrollable system breakdowns. As described by Spoiler Alert, the management of food waste in food distribution facilities can typically be improved by incorporating four key operational strategies. Each of the following practical solutions will help distributors, as well as other businesses such as manufacturers and food service operations, establish a comprehensive food waste reduction strategy.

The collaboration of key internal stakeholders to identify existing operational issues helps ensure that all pertinent information is gathered before any waste reduction initiative is implemented. Examining inventory management processes, understanding discrepancies in procurement and demand for products, and promoting a holistic waste diversion program internally and externally are opportunities to assess gaps in waste diversion processes.

Accurately quantifying food waste by collecting data on unsold inventory and food losses provides businesses leaders essential visibility when developing reduction initiatives. Tools such as waste audits and tracking software can measure a baseline waste quantity and help businesses track progress towards a reduction goal. Third-party software is available for implementing these systems, and in house strategies such as analyzing data from your waste hauler invoices can also provide insightful information.

Establishing a network of partner organizations that accept and distribute surplus food can help businesses develop mutually beneficial relationships. Unsold food inventory can be channeled through a network of discounted sales outlets and food donation partners. Inedible food, including packaged items, can also be processed at composting sites, animal feed operations, anaerobic digestion facilities, or intermediate de-packaging facilities. It is important to maintain ongoing communication with partner organizations. For food distributors with short shelf-life products, it may be necessary to assign internal staff to manage these activities, or to seek external support from third party providers. Use the RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts Find-a-Recycler tool to locate food donation outlets, as well as haulers and processors of food scraps. Remember that in order to receive liability protections, surplus food must be donated to 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations.

The final strategy for effective implementation is to retain employee and customer engagement in waste reduction initiatives. Utilizing various impact metrics as part of an internal marketing campaign, such as meals donated or pounds diverted from the trash, is one way to increase employee and customer support of waste diversion programs. RecyclingWorks offers no-cost technical assistance that can include creating customizable waste bin signage and training to help educate employees about recycling and food waste diversion best practices.

RecyclingWorks assists businesses and institutions maximize recycling, reuse, and food waste diversion opportunities. RecyclingWorks has developed guidance on estimating your food waste, source reduction and food donation, and also provides technical assistance to help businesses implement programs that prevent, recover, and divert waste from disposal. To speak to a recycling and food waste diversion expert, call our hotline at 888-254-5525 or email us at