Composting is one option for reducing food waste. Photo: Shutterstock
Composting is one option for reducing food waste. Photo: Shutterstock

Getting Started with a Program

When it comes to saving food from landfills, consumers can help, too. Check out these tips, then encourage your local retailers to think about beginning a food waste reduction program if they don’t already have one. Here are the steps to get them started:

Step 1: Assess your store’s food waste. What are you throwing away? If you must purchase it and it doesn’t sell, can it be diverted from landfill? Identify potential food recovery/reduction opportunities early. A lack of demand may mean your store should purchase less of the item in the first place.

Step 2: Conduct a food waste audit. Collecting this data creates a baseline from which to gauge performance.

Step 3: Plan for costs. Successful food waste reduction programs can be implemented at minimal cost. Look for partnership opportunities in your area that could offset certain costs. Also look for revenue opportunities related to selling your store’s compost.

Step 4: Source reduction. Continue to evaluate ways in which to reduce waste sent to the landfill. Do other (or new) compost opportunities exist? Does purchasing complement consumer demand? Will contamination be an issue?

Step 5: Decide which food options work best for you. A good place to start is the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy, which encourages source reduction first, followed by feeding hungry people, feeding animals, industrial uses, composting, and finally incineration or landfill. Also, the data you gathered in Step 2 will come in handy as you decide which food recovery will be of most value to your store. Talk to your waste hauler and/or others in the industry.

Step 6: Start the program. Engage key stakeholders early and often, and effectively educate your employees about the benefits and components of your program. Don’t be afraid to start. Training and implementation can be rolled out easily with the right planning.

By Chase Ezell

Chase has served in various public relations, communications and sustainability roles. He is a former managing editor for