According to DEFRA’s estimates, the UK wastes around 16 million tonnes of food every year and the typical British household wastes about 15% of the food that it buys. Needless to say, this category of waste is especially egregious in a world where not everyone has enough to eat.
LeanPath is a Portland, Oregon-based company whose technology helps restaurants and catering companies monitor their food waste. It works by asking employees to weigh everything that they throw away, each time choosing what type of food it is on a touchpad connected to the scales, much like buying vegetables at the self-service checkout in a supermarket.
Over a week or a month, this information is compiled into a detailed report that allows them to see which ingredients they are buying too much of and which dishes are coming back uneaten. “You can think of it as a cash register for waste,” says LeanPath president Andrew Shakman.
Perhaps more important than the analysis, though, is the fact that the LeanPath system forces employees to acknowledge the value of the food that is being wasted. “People make the biggest difference in controlling food waste,” Shakman says. “Once you can get people to look at food as having value – and not just as a massive quantity of product flowing through their hands – then there are a lot of benefits.”
Happily, food that is thrown away need not be wasted – it can be converted into liquid petroleum or methane via bacterial digestion. Waste management companies such as SITA will therefore take food from their customers’ bins for a lower price than other materials.
“We can take the food waste at a much lower cost because it generates money for us,” explains Jim Wilks.