Software applications are paving the way for businesses to better understand and be proactive about managing food waste as well as encourage donations, as some provide a platform to match donors with surplus food with organizations that distribute it to hungry people. Businesses are also leveraging technologies like radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag readers to manage organics and food waste.
At WasteExpo 2019, Coryanne Mansell with the Center for EcoTechnology (CET) and Michael Corbett of Divert touched on technologies to make the most of organics management. During a panel titled “Technology Innovations and other Solutions to the Problem of Wasted Food,” attendees learned that a mere 1 to 4 percent of energy is recovered from food waste to make electric power, while 4 to 11 percent of thermal energy is recovered from conversion technology. Divert relies on recovery technologies to help retail chains recycle efficiently by using data analysis and automated monitoring. The company developed a system where stores put RFID tags on bales of cardboard, and distribution centers outfitted with RFID tag readers can track materials through these business’ process.
CET supports businesses in using technologies with applications like LeanPath and Phood that enable generators to track food waste and generate reports. Phood is working with CET, the state of Rhode Island and several Rhode Island universities to pilot a source reduction program.
Apps like MEANS Database and Food Rescue U.S. perform these functions. MEANS connects food pantries and soup kitchens with nearby businesses with surplus items in real time, enabling food to move fast. Food Rescue U.S. provides a platform enabling volunteers to deliver edible surplus items.
De-packaging is one of the newer technologies used to address wasted food, and through the process, operators are reaching higher hanging fruit that’s harder to recover. While technologies vary, packaged items can go into processing machines; food waste is extracted and sent to anaerobic digesters while the packaging can be recycled.
As the industry continues to evolve, there has been tremendous innovation in technology solutions at all levels of hierarchy, from preventing food waste to recovering and processing.