It’s no secret that the food industry struggles to control the vast amount of waste it generates. In the United States alone, 30-40 percent of the national food supply (roughly 52 million tons of food) finds its way into landfills every year — a staggering and shocking statistic considering that 1 in 7 Americans don’t have access to affordable, nutritious food. Food waste has become a top-of-mind issue for governments, brands and NGOs across the globe in recent years, with new initiatives, collaborations, technologies, campaigns, protocols and standards — and even resource centers — cropping up almost every day. And the results are encouraging.
The latest success in the fight against food waste comes from Baldor Specialty Foods, the Northeast’s leading produce processor and distributor, which this week announced that it has successfully diverted 100 percent of the organic waste generated in its Fresh Cuts operation from landfill and become the first U.S. wholesaler to completely eliminate food waste from its production facility.
The key to its success? A food waste initiative known as SparCs (“scraps” spelled backwards), which was developed by the company’s sustainability director, Thomas McQuillan, in response to the worrisome amount of food scraps being discarded each week.
“We had to stop referring to these food products as waste,” McQuillan says. “It’s food. Usable, nutritious and delicious food. We just needed to find ways to consume it.”
Through the SparCs program, Baldor offers trim, tops and peelings from its Fresh Cuts facility for sale, encouraging customers to find new applications for these items that would otherwise end up in the bin.
The program takes a multi-faceted approach to organic food waste, prioritizing human consumption whenever possible. This emphasis has inspired partnerships with companies such as Washington D.C.’s MISFIT Juicery — which recovers unsellable, blemished, “ugly produce” for use in cold-pressed juices; and Haven’s Kitchen, a Manhattan-based café and cooking school dedicated to forming community through the pleasure of cooking and eating, which recently developed a line of soups, sauces and cookies made from Baldor’s SparCs.
For produce items such as cantaloupe rinds and mango pits, which are unfit for human consumption, Baldor worked with several partners — including Brick Farms in Hopewell, New Jersey — who repurpose them into animal feed.
Any remaining organic material, not used for human or animal consumption, is processed within an on-site waste-to-water system, which is how Baldor has successfully diverted 100 percent of its food waste from ever reaching a landfill.
“We pride ourselves on being innovators and trailblazers in all facets of specialty food distribution,” says Baldor’s CEO, TJ Murphy. “SparCs is just the next logical manifestation of that commitment and we’re happy to present this sustainability model for others in the industry to adopt.”
Having achieved its 2017 sustainability goals ahead of schedule, Baldor says it will continue developing new ways to keep organic matter out of its waste stream in over the next year, and is already working on plans to create a dried vegetable blend or “flour” that provides a nutrient-dense boost to soups, smoothies, baked goods and more.