Each year, approximately 1.3 billion tons of food waste is created globally. In the United States alone, approximately 34 million tons of food is delivered to landfills, which accounts for more than 35% of total landfill waste. These jarring statistics may not be top-of-mind for a supermarket that is clearing out inventory that is unsellable, but they demonstrate that the abundance of food that is not consumed is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, both here in the U.S. and worldwide.
Food waste in landfills and the hazards it creates through the release of harmful methane gas not only present a dangerous scenario for our environment, it is also an issue of concern for any business that is forced to dispose of a significant amount of food, including grocery stores. For a supermarket, which — due to an increased demand for produce and the freshest products, goods that are damaged during distribution, or simply inefficient purchasing — must dispose of food that is unable to be donated, the economic impact of disposal sometimes can be severe.
Fortunately, there are emerging technologies that can play a role in managing this problem, and provide businesses the opportunity to enhance their operations, help their bottom line, and, most importantly, improve environmental sustainability. It should be acknowledged that food retailers have made progress through industry initiatives and partnerships, such as the Food Waste Reduction Alliance. But these efforts are not enough on their own and may not be the most effective in terms of achieving lasting results.
The best solution that has emerged in recent years is big data.