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Costs of Food Waste Pile Up

Jake Miller, 8, empties food waste at Portland International Airport in Oregon. The waste is given to the city to use as compost.
Jake Miller, 8, empties food waste at Portland International Airport in Oregon. The waste is given to the city to use as compost. (By Greg Wahl-stephens -- Associated Press)
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Besides being environmentally friendly, the changes may save the airport money. It costs about $82 to have one ton of trash hauled from the airport to the city landfill. But food waste costs about $48 a ton to haul. Last year, the airport was able to divert 165 tons of food out of the trash stream, which would add up to $5,600 in hauling fees alone. That's an increase from the year before, when about 157 tons were composted.

But biodegradable bags "cost a fortune," Jones said. Ultimately, it's more expensive to compost the food than throw it away. But the airport is continuing the program with an eye on the future.

Cutting back on the waste can require spending money on software and training.

LeanPath, based in Portland, Ore., sells a software system to track food being tossed out. More than 75 institutions including hospitals, restaurants and hotels use the system, which costs about $600 a month, to track waste in high-volume kitchens. Employees put food waste on a scale and use a touch-screen computer to record what type of food it is. The system calculates the cost, and tracks what is being pitched.

Steve Peterson, head chef at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas, said he was surprised when he installed the LeanPath system and saw the value of food that was going out the back door. Much of the waste came from sauces, dressings and trimmings that weren't eaten.

To cut costs, Peterson decided to reduce serving sizes. He said customers weren't bothered by the switch, which has helped him trim food waste by between 15 to 20 percent over 18 months.

"The reality is the consumer is more value and cost conscious," he said, "so they're not necessarily looking for more food. They're looking for food at a better value."


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