You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

breaking news

US to expand pool of people targeted for deportation

How one company eliminated food waste: The 'landfill can no longer be an option.'


Those carrot tops you've lopped off are not garbage. Your snapped-off green-bean stems are not scraps. They are what Thomas McQuillan, sustainability director for Baldor, a specialty foods and produce distributor, calls sparcs - "scraps" spelled backward and pronounced like "sparks." And sparcs, despite popular assumption, are often just as edible as the rest of the fruit or vegetable.

"The narrative around food that we don't traditionally eat is all negative," said McQuillan, whether it is the recently in vogue "ugly" produce or the yuck-inducing name "trash cooking." "Instead of calling this trim or byproduct, let's come up with a name for it."

It worked for the slimehead, a fish we now see on restaurant menus as orange roughy. It worked for Archibald Alexander Leach - you probably knew him as Cary Grant. And McQuillan is hoping the rebranding effort will make a dent in this country's huge problem with food waste.

It's already working at Baldor. The company, which provides produce and specialty goods such as caviar and olive oil to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast's food-service industry, no longer produces any organic food waste as of this year, thanks to some clever reuse initiatives. For the company's Fresh Cuts program, which offers pre-sliced, diced or otherwise prepared vegetables, Baldor saves all of its sparcs (though the company stylizes it with a capital C, "SparCs," to "help make the word stand out," McQuillan said) for human or animal consumption. Previously, these edible and nutritious pieces of fruits and vegetables would have been discarded.

Carrot skins and tops, strawberry tops, odd-shaped pieces of watermelon and other fruit and vegetable pieces are sold at 30 cents a pound - about half their usual value - to Misfit Juicery, a D.C. company that cold-presses perfectly-edible "ugly" produce into juice. Other vegetable odds and ends are sold to Haven's Kitchen, a New York restaurant and cooking school that uses them for sauces, soups and broths. Baldor is also experimenting with other creative reuses. McQuillan says the company is dehydrating sparcs and turning them into a dried vegetable blend that he compares to bouillon. Baldor plans to make it available for its clients and retailers by the end of 2017.

Other sparcs that are less useful to humans, such as cantaloupe rinds or mango pits, are sold in enormous bags at 5 to 12 cents per pound to Brick Farm Market in Hopewell, N.J., where they are fed to pigs or are composted. The bulk of Baldor's food waste - about 120,000 pounds a week - is trucked to a processing plant, where it is donated for use in chicken feed. The only sparcs that do not go into the chicken feed are any bits that have fallen to the floor or that were scraped off plates in the company's cafeteria. Those byproducts are processed on-site in a "waste to water" system.

The "landfill can no longer be an option for any food, for any reason," McQuillan said.

It's also better for Baldor's business.

"There is a substantial benefit to the bottom line in two ways: If you are able to sell the sparcs, now you have revenue generation. You're also saving whatever it would cost to eliminate it," he said.

Previously, the company would pay to have its discards hauled away and processed. Now, other companies are paying for those same discards, which are delivered as part of a Baldor truck driver's regular route. The only cost is for hauling discards to the chicken feed factory, but it's a third less than what the company would have paid its previous waste processor, and "we felt very good about the fact that it was being used in feed," McQuillan said.

So if it's good for the planet and good for the company, why isn't every produce processor doing this? It's partly because it can be hard to convince people that it is a good idea.

"When we first started talking about sparcs, operationally speaking, there was a resistance to change the way we processed this food," McQuillan said. "I think this would be the case in any food-processing facility. If you are processing a certain way, you have protocols in place to handle any aspect of production. Changing those protocols is challenging."

After all, it's easier to just send thousands of pounds of garbage away in a truck. It's harder to turn them into sparcs and find a second use for them. But McQuillan hopes that more food producers will find a way to use these remnants in their products, whether to feed the needy or just to sell to everyday consumers.

And even though corporate changes could have a huge effect, McQuillan hopes to see sparcs-based cooking at the consumer level, too. The easiest step is that time-old trick of throwing vegetable odds and ends into a plastic bag in the freezer and using them to make a big pot of broth at the end of the week. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, we throw away 25 percent of the food we purchase. The average family of four spends an average $1,560 each year on food they never eat.

"I think that would be a wonderful day, if we thought about, in our own kitchen, how we could be more responsible," McQuillan said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Austin360 Eats

Get your napkins ready: Austin Chicken Wing Festival to debut April 2
Get your napkins ready: Austin Chicken Wing Festival to debut April 2

Food festival season is in full swing, my friends. Love chicken wings? You’ll want to know about the Austin Chicken Wing Festival coming up on April 2.
Coming soon: Green Pastures returns as Mattie’s in March
Coming soon: Green Pastures returns as Mattie’s in March

One of Austin’s most recognizable fine dining establishments has received a facelift. After purchasing Green Pastures last year with a group of investors, La Corsha Hospitality Group (Second Bar + Kitchen, Boiler Nine Bar + Grill) will reintroduce the South Austin restaurant on March 1 under the banner Mattie’s.
Daughter of famed Belgian brewer to bring Celis Brewery back to Austin
Daughter of famed Belgian brewer to bring Celis Brewery back to Austin

Contributed by Celis Brewery. Christine Celis and her daughter Daytona Camps are resurrecting the legacy of Christine’s father, Pierre Celis, with the upcoming Celis Brewery in North Austin.
J. Cole’s ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ tour coming to Erwin Center in August
J. Cole’s ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ tour coming to Erwin Center in August

J. Cole performs at the Austin360 Amphitheater at Circuit of the Americas. (Suzanne Cordeiro/American-Statesman) R&B and rap artist J.
Humble magic in Georgian capital’s restaurant renaissance
Humble magic in Georgian capital’s restaurant renaissance

When the chef Meriko Gubeladze opened Shavi Lomi, she recalled that Tbilisi was “starving for small, homey restaurants with good food.” That was 2011, and the quality of Georgian cuisine — known for its lavish use of spices and aromatic herbs influenced by travelers along the Silk Road — wasn’t the problem, but the uninviting...
More Stories