Waste Not Initiative - Food Waste Reduction, Recovery and Diversion

Results from our preliminary survey are in!  Highlights include:

  • Fifteen business owners responded – a nearly 10% response rate!  Thank you!
  • More than half indicated that they are willing to recycle food waste.
  • A third of respondents already separate food waste in some way in their operations.
  • Most cite the lack of consistent collection services as a primary barrier to diverting food waste from the landfill.
  • More than half of respondents currently recycle used cooking oil.

See the full report attached below, and be on the look out for our next phase!  Thank you!


Project Synopsis

Food Loss and Waste in the US
In the US, 40% of food goes to waste during production, processing, distribution and consumption1. The USDA estimates that 29% of the total food losses at the retail-level food supply is from households, food service operations, and retail operations2. Approximately 4 to 10 percent of food is lost in restaurant kitchens, both edible and inedible, before reaching the consumer3. Plate waste is a significant portion of losses in food service businesses, as well. On average, 17 percent of food served in restaurants is uneaten and only about half of this is carried out as leftovers4.  Food waste negatively impacts the environment and society and represents significant economic losses.

More than $165 billion dollars per year is spent to produce food that never gets eaten, and a 15% reduction in food loss would be enough to feed 25 million Americans. In addition, food waste is the single largest component (21.1%) of waste disposed of in landfills in the US (EPA, 2013)5. Food waste generates methane as it decomposes, making landfills the third largest methane producer in the US5&6, and the climate impact of methane is 25 times that of carbon dioxide.  For these and many more reasons, food waste is quickly becoming an issue of national concern.

National Efforts
The first-ever national food loss and waste goal of “a 50 percent reduction by 2030” was announced by US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg on September 16, 20157.  The EPA also suggests a food recovery hierarchy (below) that graphically represents how recovered food should be utilized to minimize food insecurity and, from there, minimize the environmental impact of food waste.

Other Community Efforts
A survey conducted in fall 2014 identified 198 communities in the US that have food waste collection programs8. Several states and cities implemented commercial food waste bans, prohibiting the disposal of surplus food and organic waste in the landfill9. Food waste prevention and reduction programs can bring social, environmental, and economic benefits, and solutions vary by community.  Successful programs include:

-       UC Berkeley dining services (CA) reduced pre-consumer waste by 43 percent, saving > 1,000 lbs of food and $1,600 per week using LeanPath software to identify waste sources.

-       Town of New Paltz (NY) established a model for small capacity composting, and using the EPA’s food recovery program, transitioned to include ‘wholesome food to hungry people’ and ‘food recovery for animal feed’.

-       Sprouts Farmers Markets (AZ) donated more than 14 million pounds of fresh food to local hunger relief agencies through their Food Rescue Program in 2015 and diverted another 5.5 million pounds of food waste to composting facilities and local farms to feed animals.

“WASTE NOT” Food Recovery Project in the High Country
Although there is no countywide food waste collection or diversion program in Watauga County, several businesses and organizations have already implemented more sustainable practices that align with the EPA’s hierarchy.  Our goal is to work with public officials, human service agencies, farmers, residents and businesses, including restaurants, groceries, and hotels, to develop a regional food loss and waste management program appropriate for our community.  We received a small grant to conduct an initial survey of local food business’ practices related to food waste, Stage 1 in the image below. 


We see the potential for a program like this to relieve hunger and contribute to the viability of local agriculture via inexpensive animal feed or high-quality compost.  In addition, we anticipate benefits to local businesses looking to attract and build a loyal customer base, especially through sustainable business practices, and to reduce costly losses in thier operations. 

If you would like to share an idea with us or learn more, feel free to email us at WasteNot@appstate.edu.  Otherwise, please be on the lookout for updates and opportunities to participate.  This project is led by Hei-Young Kim and Grace Plummer of the Appalachian Energy Center and Kevin Gamble of the Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment Department.

Useful Links Related to Food Waste

File attachmentTypeSize
WasteNot_PhaseOneReport.pdfPDF1.55 MB
QEP Global Learning


Dr. Nicole Bennett
Interim Director, Research Institute for Environment, Energy and Economics
401 Academy Street
234 IG Greer Hall
Appalachian State University
ASU Box 32131
Boone, NC 28608

ph: (828) 262-2764
fax: (828) 262-6553