With a soaring population and only a limited amount of space to expand for the growth of food production, providing enough food for the entire population may hinge on our ability to eliminate food waste.

Even worse, food waste also causes a chain-reaction of waste, from the fuels used to transport it to the water used to grow or raise it. And while consumers do cause some of the food waste, the vast majority of it comes at the commercial or industrial level.

Luckily, smart practices, industrial all-in-one computers, and improved logistics can not only help eliminate major food waste but can actually create useful products like biogas and animal feed.

Improving the Logistics of Delivery

A good portion of wasted food comes from a broken supply chain. And, the EPA says that wasted food is also the most common refuse in landfills. Technology and better inventory practices can mitigate much of this problem, however, and create less waste and more efficiency for every link in the chain.

And the real problem comes when food that requires an unbroken cold chain — really, any refrigerated item — takes too long to arrive, or suffers a cooling failure at any given spot along the route. Documents can be fudged or ignored or simply forgotten, and the burden of proof for a break in the cold-chain falls to the next person in line.

This is where RFID and barcodes, combined with a handheld scanner or industrial tablet, come in. Right off the bat, every pallet of food can be radio tagged or slapped with barcodes and scanned every step of the way.

An industrial tablet with an integrated RFID and barcode scanner can connect to a shared database. This database would have the spoil conditions (including temperature and time) of all foods in any given shipment, even if they are vastly different. By allowing a computer to collect and analyze all of this data, it can then create a warning system for drivers, dispatchers, and warehouse managers.

An industrial computer, with the properly collected data, can even help calculate routes and shipping time to maximize efficiency and minimize wasted food.

Changing Food Waste into Fuel

What happens when food has already been wasted? When good food has gone rotten, is there anything to do but throw it away?

Turns out: yes, rotten or bad food still has plenty of uses. Instead of getting dropped in a dumpster and languishing out in the sun in a landfill, food that’s gone bad can actually be repurposed for environmentally friendly fuel!

It’s true. Through the process of anaerobic digestion, wasted food (essentially just organic matter) is eaten by a certain blend of four different classes of bacteria. These bacteria produce gas waste, which can be collected and used like natural gas for cooking, heating, and electricity.

Secondly, the anaerobic digestion process also produces a liquid and solid waste (or effluent) that can be used as fertilizer. It’s an extremely efficient process that ensures that even if the food has undergone too much spoilage or just doesn’t fit the criteria for human or livestock use, it can still contribute positively to our society and our environment instead of rotting away in a landfill.

Sorting Food Waste with Industrial Computers

Before food waste can be either donated to the proper facilities for reuse or sent along to reclamation plants, it must be properly sorted. Not all facilities are willing to take every kind of food waste. Instead, it’s necessary for such donations to be separated into categories like packaged, unpackaged, eligible for human use, eligible for livestock use, and useful for rendering into biogas.

This is, again, where a comprehensive tracking strategy, combined with RFID scanners and industrial computers really comes in handy.

If every piece of inventory has been tracked from its source down to the second it arrived on your doorstep, sorting should be no problem. In the event of a recall, a grocery store, warehouse, or food processing plant can use the digital database to separate for things like package vs. unpackaged, unlabelled vs. mislabelled, spoiled vs. wholesome.

Workers can then take industrial tablets out into the warehouse or on the factory floor and start scanning and pulling. With RFID tags, workers don’t even have to get that close and can cover more ground faster.

Perhaps best of all, industrial tablets are sealed IP65, meaning the units can be cleaned frequently to avoid spreading germs in food production plants. The fanless design also means it’s much more difficult for food particles and bacteria to get into and/or grow inside the computer itself (and potentially cause a safety issue during a health inspection). 

Donating Misbranded Meat and Poultry

Due to regulations, oftentimes a simple mistake like misbranding meat or poultry calls in the destruction of the food in question, even if it’s still perfectly good.

For instance, in 2018, Chunwei recalled over 65,000 pounds of raw meat because they contained allergens like wheat, dairy, egg, and soy, and somehow through simple error they weren’t labeled. During recalls such as this, the public is told to throw the meat away or bring it back to the store (where it’s often thrown away). When the recalls occur at the production level, then warehouses and stores are encouraged to do the same.

However, misbranded food that is still wholesome can, in fact, be donated for both human and animal consumption. There’s a difference between food recalled because of a botulism outbreak and food recalled because it has the wrong sticker printed on it.

The USDA recommends keeping a tight reign on tracking procedures in order to ensure that the food is wholesome (and has the documentation to back it up) before being donated. In order to establish such a provable pedigree, digitized and location-stamped logs come in exceedingly handy. If the recalled food in question can be tracked all the way back to its original lot during growth or manufacture, the food doesn’t have to go to waste.

Food Waste Can be Battled at Every Level

As you can see, food waste can be battled in practically every industrial and commercial avenue with the aid of a little technology, better communication, and proven strategies. All of us, from manufacturers to dispatchers to end-level consumers can implement a strategy or two for reducing food waste.

To learn more about deploying industrial computers and tablets to improve supply-chain logistics, contact Cybernet today.