With $218 billion spent annually on food that is not eaten, great potential exists to invest today in methods that will pay off by eliminating tomorrow’s losses.

In 2015 Betsy and Jesse Fink, through the support of the Fink Family Foundation and over a dozen other foundations, helped launch a new nonprofit initiative, ReThinking Food Waste through Economics and Data (ReFED). ReFED recently published a monumental new report on food waste, spearheaded by impact investment firm MissionPoint Partners with analysis led by Deloitte and Resource Recycling Systems (RRS). The Roadmap’s economic model evaluates and ranks 27 solutions for two essential qualities: diversion potential and potential to create “economic value,” defined as the aggregate financial benefit to society (consumers, businesses, governments, and other stakeholders) minus all investment and costs. Solutions generally fall into one of three categories: prevention, recovery for human consumption, or recycling.

Pound for pound, prevention presents the highest return on investment and benefit, avoiding 2.6 million tons while generating an annual $8 billion of system economic value. Recovery approaches such as donation-matching software, donation tax incentives and safe donation regulation can create $2.4 billion in economic value every year. Composting and anaerobic digestion can capture a whopping 9.5 million tons from major metro regions alone, with system economic value estimated at an annual $121 million. While the system economics of recycling solutions are not as competitive on a per-ton basis as seen in the cost curve, the economics for individual recycling facilities can be very profitable.

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