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Discarded food is responsible for as much as 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Rhode Island PBS Weekly's Isabella Jibilian reports on why so much food is going to waste and what some people are doing to try to stop the trend.
Finally tonight from moldy strawberries to thanksgiving leftovers. Food waste is a part of daily life in America. And according to the Environmental Protection Agency, it's responsible for about eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Rhode Island PBS Weekly's Isabella Jibilian reports on why so much food goes to waited and some efforts to stop the trend.
At Four Town Farm in Seekonk, Massachusetts, it's harvest season.
Eva Agudelo, Hope’s Harvest Program Director, Farm Fresh Rhode Island:
Definitely get any rhythm. That's how (INAUDIBLE) when that happens.
But Eva Agudelo knows that not all of this produce will end up at the farm stand. the pharma stand.
They'll start growing the corn at different times so t hat it becomes ready at different times. But if we have a super hot summer, sometimes all of the corn will be ready all the same time, and the farmer does not have sufficient customers, or grocery stores, or whatever, they can actually move that much corn that quickly. So they will just have more corn than they literally know what to do with.
And that's not the only problem.
Sometimes a food that gets left in the field is a little too big or a little too small. If you're selling potatoes to a French fry factory, they need those potatoes to be a certain size, and shape, and weight to work with them in the machinery.
So after months of tilling land and tending to crops, all this extra produce will ultimately die on the vine.
Dawn King, Brown University:
Food waste is a very big problem in t he U.S. Now, they're both talking about economics, right?
Dawn King, who lectures on the environment at Brown University knows this problem well.
They also say pollution is a sign of waste.
And so it goes well beyond what we're re putting into our landfills because 30% of food is wasted or lost before even gets to the retailer or distributor.
Why are we seeing waste happen on farms?
We're very mechanized. And so machines are specifically designed, many of them, to only harvest the top two-thirds of a plant.
That's because farmers do not want machines getting tangled in dirt. And farmers also leave behind produce that is less attractive, what's known as Grade B.
One set becomes Grade B, it loses almost all of its value. It is not even like it trust 10%, it loses all most all the value. So farmers are facing this in this really bad predicament. They want the food to go to others, but they have to pay people to pick it. They have to pay people to package it. They have to get it on a truck and get it to that donation site. All of this cost the farmer money.
And King says, the problem goes far beyond the farm. At every point in the supply chain, more food is lost. From manufacturing, restaurants, grocery stores, and the worst culprits, consumers at home. Added up one third of the food supply in the U.S. is lost or wasted. If food is exposed to air when it's breaking down, it at least has a chance of becoming compost. But when it breaks down in a landfill, something else happens, greenhouse gas.
It rots when it's not exposed to oxygen like in a landfill state. And when it rots, it creates —
Because it's so piled up?
It's so pilled up, exactly. You pile it on top of each other so none of it is exposed to air. And so it does the exact opposite of compost. It turns into methane, right? You 're having a festering methane pile that is 25 times more potent than CO2.
And that's what we're seeing when we see those pipes that are sticking our on the landfills. Those are to let out the methane.?
King says so much food is thrown away because it's relatively inexpensive in the U.S., and because use by dates are misleading.
A lot of people don't realize that expiration dates are not set by the U.S. Government. Baby formula is the only food product that actually has a mandated best buy date. Sometimes it says sell by, sometimes, it says best by, sometimes it just has a date.
King says these dates describe how long the manufacturer guarantees the quality of the food rather than how safe it is to eat.
There's actually a labeling problem in the United States as well that people throw away things they think are bad. And it is really not that way.
Josh Domingues, Founder and CEO, Flashfood: The average (inaudible) throws at anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 worth of food every day. And the food is anywhere from three days or sometimes weeks before the self by date.
Josh Dominguez is the Founder and CEO of the company Flashfood.
It is not just the story of the big bad retailer, it's also consumers. If we buy a watermelon and there is one on the shelf, as consumers, we assume it's the worst one so the grocer has to over stock the shelves so that we get selection.
Domingues came up with an idea, save the perfectly edible food that is cold from supermarkets, like a nicked (ph) pepper or meat within three days of its state. He created an app where customers across the Midwest and Eatern U.S, can buy today's deals and pick them up from special purple fridges.
Then in terms of the volume, we have diverted over 50 million pounds of food th
at would've likely end up in landfills.
Back at the Four Town farm, Eva Agudelo has another way of rescuing food. Her program gathers produce that remains in the field after harvest. It's a process called gleaning.
We're already past probably about 400 pounds of corn. And we will probably get over 1,000 pounds.
Last year, they saved up to 250,000 pounds of food and donated it to hunger relief. It's an old one solution to a modern problem.
Gleaning is actually in the Old Testament in the Book of Ruth. So it goes back thousands of years.
It' not new tech?
It sure is not. No. People like, how did you come up with this idea? And I'm like, I really did not.
For "PBS News Weekend," I'm Isabella Jibilian in Providence, Rhode Island.
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