Food Waste Solutions
Food waste has enormous impacts on our environment, food insecurity, the economy, and more, but a range of solutions already exist to reduce it. Some are breakthrough innovations, some are basic best practices, and many have a strong potential for investment returns. Across the country and around the world, businesses, jurisdictions, nonprofits, funders, and others are already making a substantial effort to address the challenge. But much more needs to be done to achieve national and international goals to reduce food waste by 50% by the year 2030.
ReFED's food waste analysis estimates that an annual investment of $18 billion can reduce food waste by 21 million tons each year. That investment would result in $78 billion in annual net financial benefit – a four-to-one return. Plus, every year, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 113 million metric tons, save 6.2 trillion gallons of water, and recover the equivalent of 4.2 billion meals for people in need. And full implementation of our modeled solutions would create 58,500 jobs. Our Roadmap to 2030 and Insights Engine can help the food system do it.
A Guide for Taking Action
Roadmap to 2030: Reducing U.S. Food Waste
Food waste is a systemwide problem, and solving it will require a systemwide response. ReFED’s Roadmap to 2030 looks at the entire food supply chain and identifies seven key action areas showing where the food system must focus its efforts – plus it includes a detailed financial analysis to help direct the private, public, and philanthropic capital investments needed to fund these efforts. In line with the "Target-Measure-Act" framework for food waste reduction that’s been adopted around the world – and building on our landmark 2016 Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste – the Roadmap to 2030 is a comprehensive blueprint to help food businesses, governments, funders, nonprofits, and more take action.
Key Action Areas
These are the seven areas where the food system must focus its efforts over the next ten years to prevent, rescue, and recycle food at risk of going to waste.Learn More
Within each action area are a range of solutions, including those that we’ve modeled using key data points, promising solutions that we’re still gathering data on, and best practices that many organizations have already worked into their operations.Learn More
Key levers include important supporting efforts that enable or accelerate the adoption of solutions, including financing, policy, innovation, and engagement.
Each stakeholder has a unique role to play to advance solutions adoption across the key action areas. These recommendations outline specific calls to action for each sector of the food system, as well as funders and policymakers.Learn More
Key Action Areas
These are the seven areas where the food system must focus its efforts to make a meaningful reduction in the amount of food going to waste across the food supply chain. They align with the food recovery hierarchy of prevention (stopping waste from occurring in the first place), rescue (redistributing food at risk of going to waste to people), and recycling (repurposing waste as energy, agricultural, and other products). We’ve placed a focus on articulating prevention-related action areas, as they typically have the greatest financial and environmental impact compared to the investment required, yet have received less attention than rescue and recycling in the past.
The ReFED Insights Engine features a deep-dive analysis of more than 40 food waste reduction solutions spanning our seven key action areas. Some are simple, some are more complex, some are existing best practices, and some are brand new breakthroughs. Many have a strong potential for investment returns, and others are already being implemented successfully by organizations that are actively seeking funding partners to help scale their efforts.
Solutions are grouped into the categories below – and you can view all solutions grouped by action area HERE.
Solutions for which a quantitative estimate of effectiveness in diverting food waste, as well as cost and benefit expectations to multiple stakeholders, were able to be compiled based on data from solution providers, scientific studies, and expert guidance.
Additional solutions for which we identify their key action area and the stakeholders who would benefit from or incur a cost of implementation, as well as describe qualitatively what they mean and how they work – but for which we have not yet obtained sufficient external data to fully model.
Interventions which are either not clearly definable as a specific solution, such as incremental improvement of existing common processes, or solutions that have already been implemented by a sufficiently large number of stakeholders such that there is little additional opportunity for them to address food waste that is still happening in the U.S. today.
These solutions can reduce food waste by 21 million tons each year.
MODELED SOLUTIONS ONLY – UNMODELED SOLUTIONS AND BEST PRACTICES CAN TAKE THIS AMOUNT EVEN HIGHER.