Google Pledges to Keep Food Waste Out of the Landfill

Photo shows a Google employee in the company's food storage room

Google’s latest sustainability pledge takes aim at a growing global issue: food waste.

The multinational tech company says it will halve its food waste by 2025 and send zero food waste to landfills by the same date.

Google currently employs upwards of 150,000 full-time workers worldwide. That’s more people than live in Gainesville, Florida; Berkeley, California; or New Haven, Connecticut.

In short, this means that Google’s in-house food team serves hundreds of thousands of meals every day across 56 countries, which presents the company with a huge opportunity to take action in the fight against food waste as well as the mitigation of climate change.

Photo shows a Google employee dumping food scraps into a pot
With 150,000 full-time workers worldwide, Google’s initiative to divert food waste from the landfill could have a big influence on other companies. | Google

Google is fighting food waste

To accomplish its new pledges, Google will first work to prevent waste during food sourcing, procurement, and throughout the supply chain. Then, within its staff kitchens and cafes, by making sure all excess or unused food is tracked and repurposed or disposed of properly.

The company has been measuring its kitchen waste since 2014, which has helped to divert 10 million pounds of food from landfills so far. (That’s the equivalent of taking 5,000 cars off the road for a year.) But Google also plans to buy “imperfect” fresh produce as well as snacks and products that are themselves made using upcycled and often-discarded ingredients.

While the majority of waste occurs at the consumer level in wealthy countries, Google is also working with agricultural partners to improve overall supply chain transparency, another key area for improvement. It plans to continue emphasizing technology in its efforts to cut back on food waste and hopes to pass on successful solutions to other countries and industries.

“As we make progress toward our food loss and waste goals, we’ll keep sharing what we learn with others in the industry,” writes Michiel Bakker, Vice President of Global Programs, Real Estate, and Workplace Services at Google. “Together, we can keep our planet healthy.”

Google is already a member of the Food Waste Action Plan, which is co-led by food waste nonprofit ReFED and lobbies the federal government to adopt national food loss reduction goals.

Cutting food waste will be an essential part of climate change mitigation, as up to 10 percent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are currently associated with wasted food. This is broadly via the inefficiency of using land, water, and energy to grow food (and usually fossil fuels to transport it) only for it to end up discarded and uneaten.

Photo shows a Google employee's hand holding a plate of salad
More than 1 billion tons of food goes to waste every year. | Google

Food waste is a growing problem

In the US alone, up to 40 percent of the national food supply is wasted every year. Globally, one-third of all produced food (1.6 billion tons worth approximately $1.2 trillion) also goes uneaten. Despite the United Nations’ goal to cut food waste in half by 2030, studies indicate that the amount of food wasted is still increasing and could reach 2.1 billion tons by the same year.

Reducing this waste will help improve the efficiency of global food production and could feed millions of people around the world without enough to eat. (According to the UN, the world already produces more than 1.5 times the amount needed to feed everyone.)

If food waste does end up in landfills, it also creates significant carbon emissions via the uncontrolled release of methane, a GHG that’s 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. California recently passed a law specifically to keep organic matter such as food scraps out of landfills for this reason.

Google’s pledges to cut back on food waste are typical of its increasing dedication to sustainability and minimizing its overall footprint. Last year, the company announced that its Maps and Search products would include the sustainable practices of featured businesses, followed by the launch of sustainability ratings when searching for hotels.

Both programs are aimed at supporting Google’s users to make more sustainable choices.