What does the future of food waste management look like?

July 31, 2023

4 minutes, 37 seconds read

What does the future of food waste management look like?

Around the world there’s much attention being paid to the environmental impact of food waste, but there remains a significant amount of work to be done. Nations have set big goals for reducing the amount of food waste sent to landfills, where it decomposes in an oxygen-free process that generates damaging levels of methane gas and contributes greatly to climate change. However, there’s not always clear metrics or accessible data to help gauge progress. Where data is available, it shows that the countries responsible for the largest amounts of waste have made little progress in turning this trend.

In working towards a future in which zero food waste is sent to landfills, municipalities are legislating alternative methods for its disposal and businesses are building awareness through education about food waste. But achieving this more sustainable future may require reevaluating what we think of as waste and our food waste management processes. 

Innovative uses of food waste 

Waste is defined as a byproduct that is discarded because it is no longer useful. However, innovators around the world are finding ways to extend the usefulness of food materials long past the point at which they’re typically considered waste. R&D teams and startups serving a range of industries are exploring ways to turn today’s food waste into future solutions for more sustainable consumer and industrial goods. This innovation has the potential to transform food waste management by giving new value to our trash. 

Below are just three of the many industries innovating with food waste. 


Many of our textiles come from plants, so it’s no surprise that this industry is exploring ways to incorporate agricultural waste. Companies like Circular Systems are looking beyond cotton to turn fibers from banana peels, pineapple, and hemp into a textile-grade fiber. 

Other companies are looking further down the value chain. Fruitleather was launched in 2015 to extend the life of spoiled produce. Fruitleather sources mangoes from a firm that imports 6 million kilograms of mangoes each year, around 1,500 of which go to waste each week due to quality control issues. Those mangoes instead are incorporated into goods ranging from purses to chairs. This begins with a proprietary process in which the waste is mashed, boiled to remove bacteria and prevent rot, and dried into a sustainable leather material. Other companies are turning apple and banana peels, cactus fiber, and mycelium into high-fashion materials and products.  

Sample Box made of fully vegan leather

Automotive components

In the automotive industry, food waste is in demand as a sustainable solution for interior textiles and as a sustainable replacement for some plastics. For example, former Jaguar designer Ian Callum has teamed up with OTTAN Studio, a startup that “upcycles” organic waste into materials for use in interior and industrial design products, to create interior automotive components out of food waste. The Porsche 911 features some of the results, including window trim made from walnut shells and eggshell and dashboard inserts made from coffee pulp. 

Volvo is also exploring creative food waste management in its production processes. Its Polestar electric vehicle is its latest use of interior materials made from food waste. In addition to being sustainable, these materials may lead to cost-effective opportunities to reduce vehicle weight and consequently lower fuel usage.

Building materials

Meanwhile, the architecture industry has seen the introduction of an “edible” cement courtesy of researchers with the Institute of Industrial Science at the University of Tokyo. The researchers have developed a process that turns food scraps including pumpkin, banana peels, cabbage leaves, and orange peels into construction materials through a hot pressing process. The materials have exceeded tests for bending strength, and in some cases produced materials three times stronger than concrete. 

Alternative methods for food waste disposal

Innovative applications like the ones described above stand poised to change food waste management practices for food production organizations of all sizes. However, there are some common themes in the types of materials used that indicate this problem will require multiple solutions. For the waste that remains, organizations still need to adopt solutions to keep food waste out of landfills. 

A readily available option is the LFC biodigester. This sealed equipment is installed directly in food production areas to break down organic waste in a manner that is good for both the environment and the staff typically charged with hauling out garbage bags. Food waste is sent into the machine alongside naturally occurring microbes that help waste decompose in an oxygen-rich process. In this process, there are no methane emissions. The byproduct is grey water that can be used for irrigation or disposed of down the drain. 

This equipment can break down food such as banana peels and mangoes, as well as food that would not be suitable for these innovative downstream uses. Bread, meats, dairy, and eggs can all go into a biodigester

Let’s reach the future of food waste management

Relying on traditional solutions like composting have not proven impactful enough to move the needle on goals to reduce food waste. Achieving the ambitious goals set by nations around the world, including the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12 and the U.S. EPA’s 2030 food waste goal, will require the adoption of technologies like the LFC biodigester. 

If you’re ready to rethink the way you dispose of food waste, Power Knot can help. Visit our Center of Sustainability for fresh ideas or contact us to take the next step in your food waste management journey.