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3 Strategies to Reduce Food Waste and Improve Your Facilities Sustainability

Modified on

March 6, 2024

In 2010, 133 billion pounds of food produced for retail outlets, like grocery stores, went uneaten. Then in 2018, restaurants and grocery stores accounted for nearly half of food waste in the United States generating about 31 million tons of wasted food.  In that same year, more food reached U.S. landfills and combustion facilities than any other single material in everyday trash. Learn how reducing commercial food waste and finding sustainable alternatives to landfills will benefit both the economy and the environment. 

What Is Large-Scale Food Waste?

The term food waste refers to food that isn’t used for its intended purpose and is managed in various ways, such as donating to feed other people, creating animal food, composting, or sending it to a landfill or combustion facility.  Large-scale food waste is food waste that occurs at the commercial facilities, such as grocery stores, restaurants, and venues. In U.S grocery stores, an estimated 30 percent of the food goes uneaten. Restaurants contribute to large-scale food waste through oversized portions, over-preparation of food in the kitchen, and improper food storage.

How to Reduce Food Waste

Reducing food waste is a critical component in reaching sustainability goals. Reducing food waste also reduces methane emissions from landfills, lowering your carbon footprint. It also conserves energy by preventing the pollution involved in producing, transporting, and selling the food. Finally, it conserves resources that otherwise would be used in producing food. Here are some ways to reduce food waste.

Source Reduction

One way to reduce food waste is to cut it at the source, including grocery stores. One way grocery stores can reduce waste is to have smaller quantities of fresh food delivered daily rather than larger quantities delivered less frequently. A key is to more accurately predict the required amounts of fresh food.  Another strategy is to streamline refrigerant compliance. Facility management software designed specifically for the grocery industry provides data for forecasting, as well as automatic refrigerant tracking and leakage management.

Waste Tracking

Another key to reducing food waste is to track waste using inventory management software. By understanding which food is being wasted, restaurants and grocery stores are better positioned to develop strategies that eliminate or reduce their waste. For example, data may tell a restaurant that customers consistently are eating only about half of certain large meals. Based on this information, the restaurant might reduce portions or offer fewer sides with the entrée. Waste tracking might tell a grocery store that a high percentage of its bananas go repurchased. With that information, the grocery store might look at the freshness of the bananas when they are delivered to the store or whether the quantity ordered is reasonable.


Educating employees and customers helps raise awareness of the adverse effects of food waste. For example, educated customers might resist the urge to order more food than they can eat or package leftovers to refrigerate and eat at another time.

Using the Imperfect Foods

Supermarkets have high standards around the appearance of foods. They may reject foods with an imperfect appearance at the loading dock, even if the food would taste good and provide nutritional value. Not only do these rejections negatively impact the environment, but grocery stores lose about $15 billion annually because of these rejections, according to the USDA. To reduce food waste from imperfect foods, some stores are experimenting with selling “ugly” produce at discount prices.

Reusing Food Instead of Wasting

If commercial operations find they have too much food, they can find ways to reuse it rather than waste it.

Food Donation

One way to reuse food is to donate it. Stores and restaurants can give food fit for consumption but not sellable to food pantries and homeless shelters. Trader Joe’s, for example, donated $295 million worth of food in 2014 that otherwise would have gone into the landfills. 


Animal Feed

Another way to reuse food is to donate it to zoos, farms, and animal food producers to be used in animal feed. The St. Paul Minnesota Public Schools, for example, donate about 7 tons of food scraps a day to a local pig farm. The donation reduces methane emissions in the landfill and also saves the school system $975 per day in landfill disposal fees. 

Reduce Food Waste When Possible

Despite the best efforts at reusing and tracking, some food scraps will still remain. One way to prevent these scraps from going into the landfill is to recycle. Collecting food waste to recycle is an accessible solution for many businesses. Two methods of recycling are composting and anaerobic digestion.


Composting returns nutrients to the soil.  Adding compost to gardens and highway construction sites can create healthy soils, improve water retention, support more native plants, and lessen the need for fertilizers and pesticides. San Francisco has had a composting program for more than 15 years and has also created a toolkit to help businesses comply with the regulations. 

Anaerobic Digestion

Anaerobic digestion turns food waste into energy and fertilizer. In Los Angeles, a pilot program collects restaurant scraps and unsold grocery food and turns it into a renewable energy source. 

Improving Your Sustainability By Reducing Food Waste

Sustainability is a fundamental goal for most businesses; more than 90 percent of CEOs say sustainability is vital to success. Consumers are increasingly spending more on sustainable brands. Sustainability also is essential for long-term human health. Sustainability is more than just building an energy-efficient location; sustainable facilities are those where assets are constantly monitored to ensure they minimize energy use and negative environmental impact. 

Reducing food waste is crucial in improving sustainability, especially for grocery stores and restaurants. ServiceChannel can help these businesses to reduce their food waste with its facility management software solutions. Contact us today to learn how we can help you successfully reduce food waste and improve your bottom line while improving the planet’s health.

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