What Does Costco Do With All Of Its Leftover Food?

Food waste is a critical issue across the world. According to BBC News, "over 900 million tonnes every year" worldwide, with 17% of food sold to consumers, ends up in the trash. In America, the USDA believes that 30% to 40% of all food is wasted, equating to 133 billion pounds and $161 billion.

While profit loss is never good for business, what's more concerning is the belief that disposing of food waste in landfills could contribute to climate change because of the release of greenhouse gasses (per United Nations). There's also the issue that 10.2% of U.S. households (13.5 million) are considered to be food insecure, meaning that they struggle to acquire enough food to meet their needs, reports the USDA.

With 842 locations across the globe (including 579 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico), Costco has a sizable role to play in tackling food waste. The company's website shows that Costco has a comprehensive plan for reducing food waste, but what does it entail?

Costco uses multiple methods to reduce food waste

Costco uses the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Food Recovery Hierarchy to prevent and divert unwanted food. The hierarchy looks initially at reducing unnecessary production before considering giving away unwanted food, feeding animals, recycling in industry, and composting. A landfill is the last resort.

Costco re-uses some products it fails to sell, such as turning rotisserie chickens into pies, soup, and wings (per Coscto's website). Meatloaf, stuffed peppers, and shepherd's pie are all filled using unsold beef, too. Costco's Japan stores transform uneaten croissants into desserts and unwanted oranges into smoothies. In addition to recycling, Costco donates an annual 82.6 million meals to people in need as part of a worldwide effort of its stores and sends 13.7 million pounds of food to feed animals in the U.S.

For less suitable food, industrial processes have turned tens of millions of pounds into biofuel, fertilizer, and energy, while nearly 34 million pounds globally have been composted. Through these efforts, Costco is aiming to divert 80% of its total waste from landfill. It is achieving 78.3%, which equates to nearly 1.2 million tonnes.