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Pre-Consumer Food Waste: How US Food Processing Companies are Reducing Waste and Creating Renewable Energy

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Pre-Consumer Food Waste: Food manufacturers are joining an alliance committed to reducing waste and creating renewable energy. Unilever, Starbucks, and Dairy Farmers of America have joined, committing to food waste reduction and repurposing, and decarbonization goals.

Transforming Food Waste into Sustainable Energy: The Farm Powered Strategic Alliance

Introduction to the Alliance

The Farm Powered Strategic Alliance (FPSA) marks a significant step forward in the sustainable management of food waste. Led by Vanguard Renewables, this groundbreaking initiative aims to tackle one of the food industry’s most pressing challenges – food waste. The FPSA is committed to reducing food waste and transforming any unavoidable waste into a valuable resource: renewable energy.

Key Members and Their Roles

A number of major players in the food industry have joined forces under the FPSA banner. Notable among them are Unilever, Starbucks, and Dairy Farmers of America. Each member brings a unique set of skills and resources to the table:

  • Unilever is focusing on integrating sustainable practices across its vast range of products.
  • Starbucks aims to implement innovative waste reduction strategies in its numerous outlets.
  • Dairy Farmers of America is contributing its extensive knowledge of agricultural processes and waste management.

Together, these industry leaders are setting ambitious targets and initiating specific programs to drive the alliance’s mission forward.

Strategies for Waste Reduction and Energy Creation

The FPSA is not just about reducing waste – it’s about reimagining waste as a resource. Innovative technologies and methods are at the heart of this transformation. The alliance is exploring:

  • Advanced Anaerobic Digestion Techniques: Converting organic waste into biogas, a renewable source of energy.
  • Sustainable Supply Chain Practices: Reducing pre-consumer waste through more efficient processes and collaborations.
  • Public Awareness Campaigns: Educating consumers and businesses alike on the importance of reducing food waste.

These strategies represent a holistic approach to waste management, turning what was once a liability into a valuable asset for the environment and the energy sector.

Anaerobic digestion digester tanks on a farm that uses Pre-Consumer Food Waste as a feed material.
Typical anaerobic digestion digester tanks on a farm that uses Pre-Consumer Food Waste as a feed material.

 

A Strategy for Decarbonization

FSPA commits to reducing food waste from manufacturing and the supply chain and repurposing unavoidable pre-consumer food waste. that cannot be eliminated into renewable energy via Vanguard Renewables farm-based anaerobic digesters. The FPSA members also commit to begin exploring the process of decarbonizing their thermal energy usage by converting to farm-derived renewable natural gas.

“This unprecedented commitment by food industry leaders to the Farm Powered Strategic Alliance is a call to action for others to follow to impact climate change and shape a sustainable future for America and the planet,”

said John Hanselman, Chairman and CEO, of Vanguard Renewables.

Hanselman emphasizes that this initiative is only the initial phase. He anticipates the alliance expanding to encompass more top food manufacturers and retailers in the U.S.

Additionally, he highlights the FPSA’s capacity to address not just the direct climate challenges faced by its members, but also to tackle the difficult-to-mitigate Scope 3 emissions.

These emissions are indirectly linked to the pre-consumer food waste of their supply chain partners and occur within the value chain of the reporting company.

Huge Current US Food Wastage

In the United States, more than 40 percent of all food produced ends up being discarded. While eliminating that waste is a priority, some of these unavoidable food wastes are still sent to landfills or incinerators. This food could be used as feedstock to produce renewable energy.

Vanguard Renewables uses anaerobic digesters situated on farms to capture this pre-consumer food waste energy and generate renewable natural gas or renewable electricity to be used in homes and manufacturing plants across the nation.

Moreover, the process produces low-carbon fertilizer that host farms use to support regenerative agriculture practices while also providing the American farmer with a diversified income stream.

“The Farm Powered Strategic Alliance is an impactful solution to tackling both food waste and carbon emissions,”

Michael Kobori, Starbucks’ chief sustainability officer, stated.

“We’ve made great strides in eliminating food waste at the store level with our Starbucks Foodshare program, which has helped divert 25 million meals from landfills. The Farm Powered Strategic Alliance offers an innovative solution for our supply chain and brings us one step closer to our goal of a resource positive future.”

Vanguard Renewables boasts seven active facilities in the Northeast, alongside over 20 farm-powered anaerobic digester facilities across the nation that are currently in the permitting and development stages.

Enhancing Organic Recycling Capabilities

These emerging facilities are poised to offer organic recycling capabilities not only for the existing FPSA partners but also for any future members, enabling them to recycle organic waste efficiently.

The farm-powered anaerobic digestion process combines manure from the dairy farm with pre-consumer food Waste and beverage waste in the anaerobic digester and microorganisms convert sugars, fats, and other compounds into renewable energy and low-carbon fertilizer.

“Unilever is accelerating action to fight climate change, regenerate nature, and preserve resources. We are excited to join the Farm Powered Strategic Alliance and are inspired by their vision to repurpose our unavoidable food waste to support renewable energy production and regenerative agriculture practice on farms across America. We cannot transition to a low carbon economy alone and encourage other businesses to join us in this crucial alliance,”

said Ale Eboli, Head of Supply Chain Operations for Unilever North America.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets

Organizations and institutions with greenhouse gas reduction targets such as Dairy Farmers of America can also join the FPSA.

“Dairy Farmers of America has been working with Vanguard Renewables for more than six years to empower family farms and support a more circular economy,”

said David Darr, Chief Strategy and Sustainability Officer, at Dairy Farmers of America.

“Anaerobic digestion of Pre-Consumer Food Waste can change the economics and carbon footprint of a farm, allowing generational sustainability and energy independence. We are excited to see many more of our farms and dairy processing facilities taking advantage of the new carbon economy to make a positive impact on America.”

In addition to recycling pre-consumer food waste, including pre-consumer food waste, and generating carbon-negative renewable natural gas, hosting a farm-powered anaerobic digester on a farm makes a real difference for the host farmer.

“If you’re just going to milk cows or grow lettuce, that’s really hard because it’s cyclical; you need to be diversified and not depend upon just one income stream,”

adds DFA member Peter Melnik of Bar-Way Farm in Deerfield, Massachusetts.

“A lot of dairies have been really struggling; the Farm Powered anaerobic digester has been an important part of making our farm sustainable.”

Conclusion to Pre-Consumer Food Waste: How US Food Processing Companies are Reducing Waste

The formation of the FPSA signals a promising shift in how the food industry addresses sustainability. By focusing on both waste reduction and the conversion of pre-consumer food waste into renewable energy, the alliance sets a precedent for future collaborative efforts in this space.

It’s a clear indication that when industry leaders come together, the potential for positive environmental impact is substantial.

The FPSA is not just a model for the food industry; it’s a blueprint for sustainable practices across all sectors.

 
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