top of page

With the tremendous media coverage recently of environmental issues, and the push from certain influential circles for ESG to be a business imperative, there’s been understandable pressure for manufacturers to join the ranks of good corporate citizens and just DO something.

This presents an opportunity for those of us in the food processing world to do something first, something we’ve not been all that good at historically: market ourselves. And it should be easy in this case, because for decades we’ve led the way in environmental improvement efforts in the business world.

First and foremost, our industrialization of food preparation was a tremendous boon to both the environment and to people’s lives, particularly those of women, who traditionally grew the family’s garden, preserved the family’s perishable foods, and prepared the family’s meals. Not only has the food processing industry helped set the stage for everyone to have options for more rewarding work, but the efficiencies of mass production have greatly reduced the environmental impact of those mundane activities, while reducing the amount of food that’s wasted to spoilage. Were we still largely relying on small plots for our vegetables and on the tremendously inefficient processes that home canning and cooking used to entail, the state of our natural environment would be much graver than it is today. As with so much else that the industrial revolution has brought mankind, most everyone takes for granted the great efficiencies and time savings that manufacturing has brought to what we eat, even while they also take for granted the much greater varieties of foods we have available to us as a result of the industrialization of refrigeration, food packaging, and transport.

When it comes to the more immediate focus areas for further improvements, we’re still selling our food processing prowess short. The manufacturing world has for decades been pursuing the very kinds of initiatives the rest of the business world is just now finally beginning to pay attention to. Our relentless search for reductions in energy use and water use, and improvements in emissions from our operations, have been a constant for food processors since at least the 1960s. Better and more efficient lighting for our facilities, cleaner-running and more efficient farm equipment, industrial boilers, HVAC and refrigeration equipment, compressors, and process machinery: these have been improvements the food processing world has been steadily making for at least the last 40 years.

It's very easy to look at current CO2 emissions and methane and refrigerant leaks and say they’re too much. That’s true; anything above zero is too much. But it’s foolish to ignore that, absent the steady focus on ever-greater efficiencies and ever-less pollution the manufacturing world has had for the past half-century, today’s emissions would be much, much higher.

There are still enormous improvements to be made, for certain. But let’s not let anyone succeed in putting food processors on the back foot when it comes to environmentalism. Instead, let’s market ourselves as the pioneers we’ve been. On sustainability, we’ve been leading the charge here for decades, long before sustainability was even a “thing.” We’ll continue to do so, even as we assist others along the excellent path we’ve helped to create.

Jim Vinoski

Forbes Contributor

Industry Advocate & Expert

There are several sobering worldwide and domestic facts about the amount of food waste that is being generated. Worldwide here are some up to date annual statistics (1):

  • One third of all food fit for human consumption is either lost or wasted

  • Largest source of food waste is in the food production phase and amounts to 500 MM tons due to crop infestation, poor harvesting techniques, and insufficient irrigation

  • Second and third largest sources of food waste are in the post harvesting and storage phase and consumption phase and amount to ~ 300MM tons of food waste each year

The US is a major contributor of food waste with these annual statistics (2):

  • The US creates more food waste than any other country in the world, ~ 40 MM tons which represents about 30-40% of the overall US food supply

  • The average amount of food waste generated per person equates to 219 lbs.

  • Greater than 80% of Americans toss away perfectly consumable or good food because of a misunderstanding in food labelling such as “sell by; use buy; best before; best by; expires on” etc.

What crosses your mind as you reflect upon this data? Can anything be done to stop the amount of food waste we generate every year? A compelling thought is that the amount of food waste created each year could even feed a nation of needy and hungry people! However, with the current cost of energy, the rising rates of inflation, and ongoing food ingredient supply chain issues such as disruptions in wheat supply due to the war in Ukraine, the price and availability of food products may overshadow the existing food waste issues and concerns.

Improving bottom line performance for companies and enterprises in the food and beverage industry today is a challenge, but also represents an opportunity. Number one, food waste costs money! Given the current supply chain issues, addressing food waste issues in a constructive manner can enhance overall productivity and operations; reduce material, labor, energy, and transportation costs; increase efficiencies; improve margins; and capture lost profits. (3) With what lens can we look at the food waste dilemma?

How to Look at Food Waste? The Food Recovery Hierarchy!

The overall concerns for food waste should be viewed from both an individual as well as with a corporate lens and perspective. What can and should be done now from our collective individual efforts and corporate initiatives? One helpful lens is to view food waste in a pyramid fashion. The US EPA has created a Food Recovery Hierarchy which can be utilized to help develop strategies to combat overall food waste issues. (4)

Source: US EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy

  • The most preferable choice and the one that provides the most significant opportunity is to pursue source reduction. This strategy can take place with the innovation and creativity. Establishing a reduction in the amount of surplus food produced should be a primary objective. Specific food waste reduction targets help mobilize and engage stakeholders in the overall process. Various action steps can range from improving forecasting, production, traceability, and supply chain processes and techniques to better education of the customer and the consumer. The first place to start is to conduct and complete an in-depth food waste audit.

  • Next there is the opportunity to use safe and unused food to help feed others, such as with food donations to organizations that service residents in need. Many local non-profits and food pantries are in need of food for city residents and students, such as with free and reduced school programs.

  • There are also the strategies to use food waste and scraps for animals and livestock as sources of feed. Important action steps include identifying the type of animals to be fed, conducting feasibility studies, and obtaining the required permits, licenses, and certifications for food scrap use to meet state guidelines.

  • A growing number of possibilities now exist for the use of organic streams for industrial applications. One example includes organic food waste streams for methane gas production. There are also a growing number of biobased products that can be developed and commercialized such as fuels, polymers, and chemicals using various established processes.

  • Composting food waste streams and scraps and other items such as fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds tec. offer both individuals and companies a way to enrich the soil for future uses. There are several composting processes that are available for use. The benefits of composting are many including improved crop yields, soil nutrient quality, and overall crop quality while decreasing water and fertilizer use. All these benefits are critical to regenerative farming.

  • And at the end of the food product’s life cycle is the final option of land fill and incineration, but this choice should only be considered as a last resort and not viewed as one of convenience. Michigan has the most trash in landfills per capita in the US estimated at 62.4 tons. Food waste, yard trimmings, and MSW make up a significant proportion of our landfill disposal. A good portion of this waste could be diverted and used for composting.

There are enumerable positive results and benefits from strategically addressing overall food waste issues and concerns from point a corporate and individual point of view. Pursuing a circular economy mindset of reduction, recovery, recycling, reuse, remanufacture, and repurpose will help us all shift away from our linear “take, make, waste’ model. The opportunities and strategies to reduce food waste are numerous, but it will take our collective effort to create greater awareness and outreach as well as establish needed policies and guidelines to support continued momentum.


  1. Wasted Food Statistics,

  2. Food Waste in America in 2022,

  3. Reduce Food Loss and Improve your Operations,

  4. U.S. EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy

All the best with your sustainability journey!

Norman Christopher


As an equipment provider, Reiser’s commitment to sustainability might be a little different from most food product manufacturers. Our goal is similar, to help preserve natural resources and protect our environment. However, we actually achieve this by engineering ways to help our customers become more sustainable.

A key part of this is developing custom-tailored solutions that solve a specific issue. Regardless of the industry or application, our processing equipment is always designed to deliver efficiencies that increase output while lowering food waste. The objectives are simple - streamline processes, improve capacity, and eliminate downtime. These tailored solutions do more than just provide superior ways to process a product. They often lead to truly clear and easily quantifiable sustainability results, including better utilization of raw materials, less energy consumption, and a decrease in overall waste.

Our role as a packaging equipment provider has also helped us improve the sustainability profiles of many businesses. Packaging has long been at the forefront of the green movement as companies work to limit waste and utilize more recycled, biodegradable, and sustainable options. Whether it is compostable trays, biodegradable films, or green labeling products, Reiser’s machines are compatible with all the latest sustainable packaging technologies, and we have actively promoted the use of these innovative alternatives for decades. We are also focused on creating solutions that limit waste during packaging production, meaning less materials are needed. Once again, these efforts can all deliver very tangible sustainability results to customers.

Finally, since the first alternative protein solutions were introduced, Reiser been a leader and innovator in identifying and developing plant-based products. Our customer center, in-house chefs and alternative protein specialists have been behind many of the alternative protein solutions in the market today. We remain committed to developing alternative beef, poultry, pork, and seafood solutions and are constantly collaborating with customers to help them create new and sustainable alt-meat products.

Although our ‘green’ efforts are rarely visible to the consumer, our customers know their value. Whether it is cutting down on food waste, increasing production yields, promoting the latest in sustainable packaging or providing leadership in plant-based meats, Reiser does its part every day to help our customers preserve our natural resources.

Contact the Author

Michael Lynch

VP, Marketing

Reiser, Inc.

bottom of page