How Can We Reduce Food Waste from Grocery Stores?

How Can We Reduce Food Waste from Grocery Stores?

There are many environmental questions where people disagree on whether or not it has a positive or negative outcome. Food waste is not one of them. Farmers need to work even harder to produce food that will be thrown out, grocery stores lose money on buying food that they cannot sell – and in addition to that, we are seeing a lot of packaging being used on food that never gets bought.

Huge problem.

So the real question is: How can we force the grocery stores to reduce food waste?

How Can We Reduce Food Waste from Grocery Stores?

Table of Contents

How Big Is This Problem in the USA?

Big. Ask any dumpster diver, and he/she will tell you that grocery stores throw away LOADS of food. Every day.

Center for Biological Diversity in the USA made a full report to see how big American grocery store chains handled the problem. They researched three different topics:

– How much public information is shared with the consumers about the importance of preventing food waste?
– Which direct action points have been taken to prevent food waste in the stores?
– Where does the food waste end up?

All stores were rated on a scale from A to F. But…unfortunately, no stores got an A. Walmart “won” with a B and ALDI came last with F. This is how the other chains made it in that test:

Illustration of how various grocery chains in US score in the “Food Waste test”. Photo: Biologicaldiversity, screenshot.

It is quite interesting (and sad) to see that Walmart is the only chain that scores above average on prevention. As we already made clear, shops should be just as eager as consumers to prevent food from ending up in the dumpsters. After all, they lose money for every meatball they have to put in the trash. Just like you and me.

Actually, I read through the whole report, but you won’t find any shocking news in it (apart from that graph). If you still want to see the full report, you can visit their homepage by clicking here.

The French Food Waste Law: How it works

France is the only country that has implemented strong government regulations to reduce food waste from grocery stores. In 2016, a law was implemented that fined each store 4500€ (about 5000 USD) every time they threw out edible food.

The effects of that? Well, grocery stores are now forced to think about elements such as:

– How much food they buy in at any given time
– How they store their food
– What they would do with food that might get close to the “overdue date”.

In addition to that, more than 5000 different charities are now receiving food from the French “national food network”. That number has increased exponentially together with the new regulations.

In other words: less food is being thrown out. And poor people are receiving free food every day.

How did Denmark succeed with less food waste from grocery stores?

Denmarks’ story is quite different from the one you can find in France. It wasn’t government regulations, but a very powerful and professional lobby organization that worked towards the decrease of food waste.

In other words: an organization called Stop Spil Af Mad (“Stop Food Waste”) was created in Copenhagen in 2008. They have made tremendous progress to implement government policies, but also to make the public more aware of the cost of wasting food.

Should USA Implement a National Ban on Food Waste from Grocery Stores?

Let us first summarize the pros and cons.


– Reduce food waste. This is not only an economical cost, but it also helps reducing greenhouse gases.

– There will be given loads of food to charities. According to Feeding America, more than 40 million Americans struggle with hunger every day.

– We are already seeing quite positive effects of a similar law in France. In other words: we know it would work.


– More administrative tasks given to the government.

– Reducing food waste shouldn’t be something grocery stores are doing because they are forced to. It is something they should do simply because they would save cost and help the environment.

Also read: When is the best time to dumpster dive?

2 thoughts on “How Can We Reduce Food Waste from Grocery Stores?”

  1. Avatar

    I dont think we take the food waste problem serious enough in this country. One problem is what we eat (so much MEAT and BEEF), another problem is that we throw it out without eating.

    So much potential to implement efficient food waste programs in USA,,

    1. Avatar

      Hello Ayala,

      you are right. The environmental problem with food is divided into several categories. We definitely eat too much beef, but we also throw away too much food. The best thing you can do for the environment is to reduce your food waste & beef consumption. Unfortunately, a lot of people struggle to do either of those two things.

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