Identifying Strategies for Reducing Food Waste in NC Fresh Produce Supply Chains




Vermeer, Daniel

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In recent years, food waste has received an increasing amount of attention from academia, the media and private industry. Realizing that this waste is also destroying value, producers, grocers and other large generators of food waste are searching for alternate disposal strategies which can save them money while also reducing their environmental footprint. In this light, the US Environmental Protection Agency developed the Food Recovery Hierarchy, a tool which helps provide context and suggestions for waste diversion.

This project specifically looks at shipments of fresh produce that have been rejected by the market. These rejections arise when there is an over supply of produce or a buyer rejects a shipment because of quality concerns. By scoping the issue within the framework of North Carolina, the issues, solutions and recommendations for additional diversion opportunities are more specific and can exist within a real world application.

Through a series of qualitative interviews linked together within a framework that borrows from the grounded theory tradition, a number of success stories emerge. Through a mixture of vertical integration, economies of scale and economies, businesses within North Carolina are finding ways to increase the amount of waste they divert while still keeping their sight on their own bottom lines. More importantly, these interviews identify barriers to increasing diversion beyond current levels. Small- and medium-sized companies lack the time and capabilities to craft complex waste diversion strategies. Increasing transportation costs mean that producers of food waste are less incentivized to ship waste through diversion streams that are more poorly distributed. This leads many of those who do divert waste to use composting as a default diversion tactic, as it requires less time and expense to use a single diversion stream.

State and local governments act as important players in increasing diversion activities. In North Carolina, the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources works to promote diversion activities in the state. Through programs such as NC Waste Trader, the state can provide visibility for diversion activities and help reduce some of the information barriers that come from a lack of scale.





Chappell, Eric (2015). Identifying Strategies for Reducing Food Waste in NC Fresh Produce Supply Chains. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.