Restaurants, farmers and food businesses are turning to chemistry and physics to tackle food waste.
Some companies are testing coverage to slow them down Maturing process in fruit and data pack to keep food fresh. Others are developing digital sensors that can tell when meat is safe to eat.
Experts say people are becoming more aware of the cost of food waste and more is being done to tackle the problem. ReFed is an organization that studies food waste. It said new ventures raised $300 billion in 2021, double the amount raised in 2020, to tackle the problem.
The group estimates that in 2019, about 35% of food in the U.S., worth about $418 billion, was unsold or uneaten. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste is the largest single type of material deposited in local garbage dumps. The agency noted that rotting food releases methane, an environmentally unfriendly gas.
ReFed estimates that 225,000kg of food could be prevented from entering waste areas every year through special high-tech coverings.
Many companies are working on ways to help reduce food waste.
Sweden-based Innocentia is developing a sensor that can indicate whether meat is safe to eat by measuring the buildup of microbes inside a container. Ryp Labs, based in the US and Belgium, is working on a sticker for fruit and vegetables that releases gas to delay ripening.
SavrPak has developed a plant-based packaging that can be placed in a container and absorbed moistureHelps keep food inside hotter and crisper.
But cost could be an obstacle for some companies and shoppers. Kroger, the largest U.S. grocery store company, ended its deal with Apeel Sciences this year. The deal ended because Kroger said shoppers were unwilling to pay more for fruit with a special covering from Apeel to keep it fresh.
Apeel says its special coverings are made from common food additives. It says processed avocados can be stored for a few days longer, while processed oranges can be stored for several weeks. The company said it continues to discuss other future technologies with Kroger.
Another big issue is how to deal with the different care requirements of different kinds of food to prevent waste.
“There aren’t any major changes that would improve the situation,” said Randy Beaudry of Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture.
The complexity of the problem has caused some food waste programs to fail, Beaudry said. It’s also difficult to figure out which techniques work best because new companies don’t always share data with outside researchers, he added.
Some companies find it better to use proven technology in new ways.
For example, Chicago-based Hazel Technologies has been marketing a compound called 1-MCP, which is used in cream to slow down the ripening process of fruit. The company now sells packages that slowly release 1-MCP into small fruit containers.
Mike Mazie Overseas BelleHarvest, One Big Apple Package facility in Belding, Michigan. He ordered about 3,000 packages this year for apples that couldn’t fit in rooms treated with the compound.
“If you could live another week bushel Or Apple, why don’t you? he said. “It’s definitely going to make a difference.”
The science is promising, but it’s only part of the solution, says Yvette Cabrera. She’s the food waste director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Most food waste happens at home, she said. Reducing food portion sizes, buying less, or improving the accuracy of freshness dates could have a bigger impact than new technologies.
“In general, as a society, we don’t value food as much as it should,” Cabrera said.
I’m John Russell.
Dee-Ann Durbin reported this story for The Associated Press. John Russell adapted it into VOA Slow English.
words in this story
to tear -v. become ripe and edible
pack – noun. a small and thin package
moisture – noun. A small amount of liquid (such as water) that makes something wet or wet
crispy – adjective Very firm and squeaky when chewed or crushed
box -v. to put (something) into a box or other container for moving, storing, or protecting
bushel – A sort of. A unit of measure for fruit and grains equal to approximately 35.2 liters in the United States and approximately 36.4 liters in the United Kingdom