Innovative Food Waste Reduction Strategies

Monica Walker

We’ve heard the typical suggested methods for reducing food waste including feeding hungry people, feeding animals, composting, and others. We even covered the topic in a recent blog 5 Ways to Reduce Large-Scale Food Waste. Most of those examples are on a large-scale, a more commercial or municipal operation. But if you think about innovation, many times it starts on a more grassroots level – an idea sparked in a garage or jotted down on a cocktail napkin. These can grow and evolve into something that becomes commonplace (hello desktop computer). Let’s take a look at several companies that are striving to diminish wasted food in inventive ways.

Boulder Food Rescue is a non-profit in Boulder County, Colorado, that transports unsellable food by bicycle from businesses to nearby charities and agencies that serve individuals with low nutritional access. In addition to feeding the hungry, this reduces the amount of food waste that businesses would otherwise have to landfill. This organization started with two researchers at the University of Colorado, who realized that much of the food landfilled in Boulder County could instead feed hungry folks in the area. They began approaching one grocery store at a time about taking their unsellable food, and grew into the business they are today, inspiring other organizations such Seattle Food Rescue.

Whole Systems Design is a New England company that has taken backyard composting to another level: hot tubs heated by compost piles! These piles generate lots of thermal energy due to microbial activity, so water can be heated by running it in tubes throughout the pile. One could actually take a shower heated by their food waste! This is an ingenious way to utilize the usually forgotten heat energy generated from food decomposition.

A supermarket in France, Intermarche, discovered that many foods are rejected due to their cosmetic appearance, and are therefore considered unsuitable to sell in supermarkets. Not only does this waste food, it also puts strain on farmers, who often cover the cost of the wasted agriculture. Thus, Intermarche began a creative program: Les Fruits & Legumes Moches (The Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables). Now, the stores have a separate section where non-typical looking food is sold for 30% cheaper than aesthetically pleasing produce. Discount the price, not the nutritional value.

AgriDust is an organization that takes coffee grounds, peanut shells, husked tomatoes, bean bods, orange rinds, and other food waste, combines them with potato starch, and converts it to a fine powder. This powder can then be used as “ink” to 3D print objects. Frequently a designer is printing multiple 3D prototype versions due to adjusting the design of the object. Add in that 3D printer cartridges often use difficult to recycle plastics as the “ink” and you see the issue. Now imagine yesterday’s orange peel is today’s prototype, or prototype version 2, or prototype version 3 … you get the idea.

Today’s innovations will prompt tomorrow’s impactful norms. There are so many ways to reduce food waste, including utilizing it for a different purpose, changing the way the public views food, getting the community involved in reduction efforts, and more.

What are your ideas for reducing food waste? Think outside the box!


Monica Walker is a summer intern at RRS primarily focused on a food waste reduction project, with recent work experience at an automotive company managing their air and water compliance. She is a rising senior at the University of Michigan, studying Environmental Engineering and Urban Studies and has a job on campus at the Graham Sustainability Institute.