According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the largest component of U.S. waste stream that ends up in landfills is food, making up 21 percent of what gets dumped each year. Plastics, it might surprise you, come in second at 18 percent.
That waste isn't all discarded banana peels and apple cores. According to a report issued by the National Resource Defense Council, 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes uneaten. They estimate that reducing waste by just 15 percent could feed 25 million people annually.
Happily, there are a number of cool projects chipping away at this complex problem. The D.C. start-up Food Cowboy is helping deliver safe yet imperfect produce and other goods to people in need. Founded by Roger Gordon and his brother, Richard, they learned first-hand how food gets rejected by grocery stores. The distributor may not want to dump the rejected food, but may not know where to bring it. NPR's The Salt reports:
To help make these connections, Food Cowboy has built a website where food companies, truckers and charities can find each other. Food Cowboy makes money by taking a small commission from their transactions. For 10 cents a pound, a food bank can buy as much from Food Cowboy as they can store.
But there are still challenges. Gordon says it has been difficult to get food retailers on board. Many are concerned they'll be blamed if someone gets sick and even though there is a federal tax credit, the financial incentive may not be enough to sway them. Another major hurdle is convincing food charities to have flexible hours to receive a load on a trucker's 24/7 schedule.
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Some other cool ways of addressing the problem include a mobile app, 100 New York City restaurants participating in a food waste challenge and a former Trader Joe's President opening an eatery that will serve up food past its sell-by date.