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Reflections on food packaging waste

Most of you know that we belong to a group who uses discarded, culled, stale, and stale-dated food products from some of the local grocers to supplement our livestock feed. We are grateful that such a program exists and happy that we, and other local farms, have access to such a program that targets “usable” waste by turning it into feed for our livestock. We were recently thinking that if we were to attach numbers to the waste we receive, we divvy up approximately 95% to our pigs, 2-3% to our poultry and 1-2% that we cannot use or will not feed to our animals (for their safety reasons).

I recently – and happily – learned that even before we get this waste, food banks have access to items that are not fit for a store’s curated image or policies and can be fed to those who use the Salvation Army food bank under a separate food recovery program.

We share our pick-up day with another local farm and we pick up one day per week, every second week.  Check out our Facebook page for a photo of the “household-type” waste that was generated from one of our pick up days: cardboard, tetra-packs, aluminum cans, and plastic. Bear with me for a moment on this train of thought: this pile was produced only after the choicest products on the grocery shelves became “unsuitable” or “un-desirable” for store sales, were not suitable to be accessed or utilized by a food recovery program (food bank) and which then eventually became unsuitable enough for human consumption that it could become designated livestock feed. Programs like a food recovery program and the one we belong to are an innovative and creative solution to address inefficient aspects of our food system, most definitely. Nevertheless, none of the programs seem to address the issue of food packaging waste.  Do you think the volume of waste shown in the photo is still substantial (remember, it’s only our half!)?

We have our own recycling program here at the farm; we upcycle, re-use, wash, sort, and store and transport it (along with our personal recyclable waste) to town to the in-town recycling facilities and there it leaves our hands and enters into another arm of the disposal system. Seeing this and multiplying it’s potential over a year, it really drives us to think about how we can reduce waste in better ways.

What do you think? Do you have any questions about how we address waste on the farm? Any unique tips for reducing food packaging that you’d like to share? Comment below, we’d love to hear them!