There’s a staggering amount of food wasted every year by families, restaurants and grocers around the world.
In the U.S., Feeding America estimates that 70 billions pounds of food is wasted annually—up to 40 percent of all food that's grown and transported throughout the country.
Walmart, one of the world’s biggest grocery suppliers (it’s number one in the U.S.), acknowledged a need to combat the problem and started selling ugly fruits and vegetables—produce with surface defects that is still edible— at select stores in July.
But the company reportedly has a long way to go to achieve a more sustainable anti-food waste operation.
CBC recently conducted investigations at two Walmart locations in Toronto, Canada and over the course of 12 visits found that employees tossed heaps of produce, baked items, frozen foods, unexpired meat and dairy and even unopened water bottles. According to the report, most of the food was still in its packaging, meaning the food couldn’t be composted and other components couldn’t be recycled. Several current and former Walmart employees confirmed the practice to CBC.
When asked about the trashed food, Walmart spokesman Alex Roberton told CBC that the company needed to do something to fix the problem.
"For sure, there are mistakes being made and one thing we need to do is tighten up the execution of our in-store processes for the food that is going into the bins," said Roberton.
"We need to be more certain that that is food that needs to be thrown out."
Roberton said that the company hopes to eliminate all food waste that’s winding up in landfills but right now, some food items are donated to local shelters or food banks --but would not specify how much. The company is also planning a "customer value program" to reduce prices on certain fresh items that are approaching their best-before dates.
Regarding the tossed food, however, Walmart first told CBC that the food was likely unsafe for consumption for a variety of reasons. If a refrigerated item is left out for even a short period of time, it has to be tossed for safety reasons. Still, Roberton acknowledged that doesn’t solve the haphazard disposal of perishables and packaging materials.
"If we're putting food that's good to eat in the wrong bin, then that's a mistake we need to correct," says Roberton. "And that's one of the areas that we need to focus on improving.
Walmart has 407 locations across Canada and is one of the nation’s top five biggest grocery stores.