Westlake Village, California-based Dole Food Co., the largest producer of fruit and vegetables in the world, is exploring ways to eliminate food waste by 2025.
As reported by Fast Company, the company is in the process of researching ways to turn pineapple skins and banana leaves into packaging, developing new snacks from misshapen produce that grocery stores don’t want, and processing excess waste in biogas facilities that turn food into electricity to power its processing plants.
Dole also launched several new goals June 30, including a plan to eliminate fossil-based plastic packaging by 2025 and reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 through steps such as moving to clean energy on farms and testing electric trucks for delivery.
“If food waste were a country, it would come in third after the U.S. and China in terms of impact on global warming,” Dole president Pier Luigi Sigismondi told Fast Company. “This is absolutely important, as it is connected and interdependent in many ways. When we waste fruit or food, we also waste all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport and package it. And if it goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methane—a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide.”
Currently, some “ugly” fruit is lost because strict cosmetic standards in the industry mean that it can’t easily be sold.
“As an industry, we have to both set different standards and persuade consumers that just because something looks wonky does not mean it is not tasty or nutritious,” Sigismondi said.
Some startups in the space, such as Imperfect Foods, San Franscisco, already are beginning to source less-than-flawless fruit from Dole. Other fruit is wasted because it’s damaged during harvest or in the supply chain. The company is now researching ways to “upcycle” any fruit that can’t be sold whole into snacks, drinks and other potential products, including cosmetics and skincare.
Parts of plants that aren’t typically used will also find new uses. Dole is working with partners on new compostable packaging that can be made from pulp from banana leaves or pineapple skins.
“Our ultimate goal is to convert all our plastic packaging into biodegradable solutions that kids can convert into containers with seeds that can be used entirely in public or private gardens,” Sigismondi said.
While these steps won’t completely eliminate waste, Dole says it is focused on fruit lost between farms and grocery stores and isn’t considering how retailers and consumers can also waste less produce.
“The ultimate goal is to see these changes becoming an industry standard,” Sigismondi says.