NPR Report on Salinas Valley “Bag Salad” Waste

Americans throw out a lot of perfectly good food — about $1,600 for a typical family per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

On a local level, many of us have heard of grocery stores throwing out food because it is nearing the “sell by” date… but we don’t often hear about the waste generated by food manufacturers.


Salinas Valley, California Farm Fields

Monterey County is the top producer of salad greens in the U.S. The bag salad was invented here, and many people now opt to buy these plastic bag salad mixes instead of a head of lettuce.  It’s convenient, and perfect for our busy lifestyles.

It is understandable that farms can produce a surplus of food, and that sometimes, the excess bagged salad greens nearing the “sell by” date (if they cannot or do not donate to local food banks) must be sent to the municipal dump.

And just how much goes to the dump is the focus of National Public Radio’s (NPR) Allison Aubrey’s report on the Salinas Valley and the bags of salad greens that do end up in the dump.

I’ve included this NPR report on food waste to my earlier post on Iceberg lettuce and posting here.

NPR Image Report on Food Waste

Photo by Allison Aubrey via NPR’s Food News Program “The Salt”

You can listen to the audio of the report below.

Note:  If the audio does not play, you can link to the text version of Allison Aubrey’s report on food waste and the “Landfill of Lettuce” here (What happens to salad past its prime).

I am surprised to learn how much garbage we are adding to our waste stream through this industry.

P1220136In light of the technology we have these days, it is disturbing that we have this much waste.  Even more disturbing is the precious water wasted to grow food that is not eaten (especially that we are in our 4th year of drought), the addition of more garbage (that should be composted) to our landfills, and subsequent (and unnecessary) release of more methane gas to our atmosphere.

Hopefully, this industry is creating systems that minimizes this food waste.  Reports like this one certainly help to highlight these problems.

Have you heard of similar food waste stories, whether through local grocery stores or food manufacturers near where you live?  Do you know what they are doing about it or have suggestions?


Field of greens, Monterey County, California

Food Waste Investigation CartoonRelated:

7 thoughts on “NPR Report on Salinas Valley “Bag Salad” Waste

  1. It is terrible to hear of food going to waste like that, such an important issue and I’m glad you brought it up. Those salad bag mixes sound interesting. I think we have that in our supermarkets here in Australia too – you can grab a salad bag on the go from the fridge section at the supermarket and it comes with leafy and non-leafy veggies, ready to eat.

    I’ve never worked in a supermarket before, though. But I heard from a few friends who have that supermarkets are very fond of throwing away food right before they hit the use by date…food which still can be eaten and sometimes they help themselves to it for free.

    • Sounds like you have similar products (the ready to go salad bags) there in Australia, Mabel. It is just another of those items that we invent for convenience, takes off, then we find out how much more trash it produces, like in this case. It reminds me of the single use coffee pods which create tons of trash (I posted about at ).

      It seems so wasteful NOT to donate the foods nearing expiration date, for employees to take home, or at local food banks. It seems common sense to make this a practice for grocery stores, but I don’t know how that is handled.

      I appreciate your thoughts and commenting on this post Mabel 🙂 .

      • Have to agree with you it is wasteful to just throw out food like that. Maybe for grocery stores it’s must more “convenient” to simply throw out these foods than make the effort to donate them. As for salad bags, I think it’s great. However, at times I do wonder how fresh they are, or how long they’ve been kept on the shelf.

  2. Agreed, donating to avoid throwing out food would appear to be the best choice… for either human or farm-related feed.
    With that said-
    Is is possible the bags are tossed because it is too much trouble to open them to place the vegetation into compost? If this is so, then development of compostable salad packaging does seem doable… right?

    • That is the case, Jane — they cannot be composted because of the plastic bag, so they would have to hire someone to tear open the bag (I believe the current plastic bag can be recycled) and separate the salad items.

      Maybe the volume is so much, but perhaps through this report, the companies that end up with all this waste will develop new procedures.

      I’m positive someone will invent a compostable material similar to how we use plastic bags that is safe for containing human food…eventually. It would be so much better if the whole package can be composted.

      In the meantime, it just seems such a waste and to add to more garbage in landfills, instead of returning the surplus salad leaves back to earth via composting.

      Thank you for your input, Jane.

  3. I appreciate your thoughts and the link! I will check it out… the radio program may have also been produced in conjunction with a PBS news hour feature.

    It is really a shocking amount…. almost half, oh my goodness. The whole system needs to be reviewed. We cannot just keep putting things in landfills.

Now that you are here, I would love to know what you think...comments are always appreciated.