A single 16-ounce serving generates, on average, 4.5 pounds of perfectly edible food waste.
A few months ago, I wrote an article called 'Stop Juicing. Start Eating' that pointed out the nutritional pitfalls of drinking too much juice. Lack of fiber and too many calories in a single glass are the main issues. But there's another side to juicing that should be considered. As pointed out by Elizabeth Royte for Modern Farmer, juicing creates tons of perfectly edible food waste. In fact, a single 16-ounce serving of cold-pressed juice generates, on average, 4.5 pounds of pulp waste.
'It's compostable!' you might think. Yes, in theory, but it's more complicated than that. Pulp is wet, heavy, and hard to transport. Carting it to a composting facility is costly and not something that many small businesses want to bother doing, especially if it's not mandated by the city or municipality.
Then there is the counterintuitive problem of juice pulp being so compostable that many composters don't want it; it breaks down too quickly. Will Brinton, founder of a soil-testing company in Maine, explains why:
"Juice pulp is highly degradable, unlike leaves and lawn clippings. The microbes tear into it, their population grows rapidly, and they consume a great deal of oxygen."
Modern Farmer goes on:
"Compost that becomes anaerobic not only smells really bad, it also generates acids that can actually slow the breakdown of food waste. The remedy, Brinton tells his clients, is to add more oxygen and carbon-based materials like wood chips, sawdust, and yard waste—things urban composters often have trouble getting their hands on."
Interestingly, big juice companies like Minute Maid and Tropicana get around the waste problem by drying orange peels for animal feed, but they are able to do it on a scale that's not feasible for small juicing operations. Some innovative chefs like Dan Barber (of Blue Hill restaurant and last winter's popular WastED pop-up in London) have figured out innovative ways to turn pulp into food, such as a beet-pulp cheeseburger, but this is not a standard menu item. Some home cooks mix pulp into baked goods, and a few places dry it into veggie chips -- but these are not big-scale solutions.
'A single 16-ounce serving of cold-pressed juice generates, on average, 4.5 pounds of pulp waste.'
Modern Farmer says that some conscientious juicers strive to decrease their impact by using 'ugly' fruits and vegetables -- produce that would be difficult for farmers to sell otherwise. It sends the added message to customers that nutritional value does not differ according to aesthetics, but how many juice-drinkers are actually aware of what their veggies looked like pre-pressing?
There's another side to the waste problem that Modern Farmer doesn't even mention, and that is single-use plastics for store-bought juices. With 100 million 16-ounce servings of cold-pressed juice being sold in the U.S. in 2015 alone, as the article states, that's a ton of plastic cups and straws whose life span lasted mere minutes, only to linger indefinitely in landfills and waterways.
The greenest option? Just eat those vegetables and fruits straight-up, with as many of their fibers, membranes, seeds, and pulp intact as possible, package-free.