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New Uses for Food Waste Include Possible Benefits for Environment

Food production makes up 25% of greenhouse gas emissions, but Americans throw away as much as 40% of edible food. (Pixel-Shot/Adobe Stock)
Food production makes up 25% of greenhouse gas emissions, but Americans throw away as much as 40% of edible food. (Pixel-Shot/Adobe Stock)
May 29, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. - Edible food is wasted on a massive scale in the United States, but there are signs that it could be coming back to Americans' plates.

The Upcycled Food Association has officially defined "upcycled food," paving the way for a certification program akin to organic labeling later this year. One member company, Caskai, makes beverages from the byproducts of coffee fruits.

Joel Jelderks is the company's co-founder and an Oregon native.

"I really like this kind of yin-and-yang dichotomy of taking something that was considered waste and turning it into something premium, and how consumers react to that as well," says Jelderks. "That they're eating something that's literally thrown on the ground and that somehow, has been turned into a very premium and functional product."

The association defines upcycled foods as using "ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment."

As much as 40% of food is wasted, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Food production also accounts for about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, meaning cutting down on food waste could also be key in the fight against climate change. In addition, Jelderks says some byproducts of coffee are harmful to the environment - and yet, millions of tons are dumped each year.

"Because of the caffeine and polyphenol content in coffee fruit," says Jelderks, "it was naturally toxic to aquatic life."

Jelderks notes these substances in coffee fruit waste are not harmful to humans, but some animal species are sensitive to them.

Jelderks believes once they becomes more visible in grocery stores, upcycled foods could take off. That could be especially true in the Pacific Northwest, which he sees as more conscious of food and sustainability issues.

"I think the Northwest is a really great place for products like these to be introduced," says Jelderks, "and I think they'll naturally have support in the community."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR