The intent of this page is to provide information within the larger context of food waste reduction and management that is specific to the grocery sector. Below you will find success stories, best practices, and high level detail about the components of retail food waste to help you manage food waste at your store.
There is a significant opportunity to make a difference with food waste by doing work in this sector. In New York State alone, we estimate there are over 1,100 retail stores (grocer, convenience, big box stores and supermarkets) that generate two or more tons of food waste per week, which accounts for 3/4 of all of the food waste produced by large generators across the State. The average amount of waste per store is estimated to be 57.5 lb. per employee per week, which equates to approximately 2 tons per week with 70 full time employees. To find out more about these estimates, check out our calculator here.
Food waste data presented in the chart below is aggregated from food waste assessments we performed at 3 grocery stores in 2016 and 2017; see the full case study here. While total volumes changed per store, the composition by department remained fairly steady across the 3. We also developed a series of tools to assist others in performing their own assessment; they are available for download here.
Typical Food Breakdown
Understanding your specific store's food waste attributes can help you understand the best path forward for source reduction, donation and recycling. Not all sources of food waste are created equal. The most cost effective reduction and diversion opportunities available to you may change depending on your food waste mix. Below are some key observations about the food waste generated at a grocery store.
- Produce dominates the food waste generated by department in stores by a significant margin
- Grocery stores have a heavy mix of food waste streams from the various departments. Each department's food waste has different characteristics (i.e. volumes, nutritional properties, variability, packaging types) and reasons for being wasted (trimmings, quality standards, shelf life, etc.)
- Food packaging can drive where and how much of your food waste can be easily recycled
- Food waste types and volumes can vary greatly throughout the year from seasonality and from themed displays and specials, e.g. Halloween candy or Thanksgiving turkeys