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Las Vegas has a food waste problem | REMARK

Everything revolves around buffets.

People come to Las Vegas for many reasons. Some come for conventions. Some come for the magic shows, Cirque du Soleil or Celine Dion. Lots of people come to play. Some come just for the show of it all. But everyone who comes to Las Vegas knows the buffets.

These legendary Las Vegas buffets — with everything from salad to sirloin — power the trips of more than 42 million visitors a year. The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace alone offers more than 500 food items, serving more than 3,500 visitors daily. The buffets are “all you can eat”, but not everything is eaten. Inevitably, some of this food is wasted.

And that’s a microcosm of what’s happening at the national level. According to the US Department of Agriculture, approximately 30-40% of the US food supply is wasted. Some of this waste is caused by food spoilage, but the vast majority of it is food that is purchased but not eaten, like the food featured in Las Vegas buffets.

Food waste creates a myriad of economic challenges, including the expense and labor involved in producing the food in the first place, the fuel and transportation costs to get it from farm to market, the costs of handling and selling the food and, finally, the value of the food product itself. The USDA estimates the true cost of food waste at approximately $218 billion per year.

Simply put: food waste, as a category, is a significant and growing contributor to the negative effects of waste on the environment and economy. It also has an impact on world hunger.

Although the United States currently produces twice as much food as it needs to serve its 330 million citizens, according to analytics firm SAS, about 54 million people in the United States are in dire straits. food insecurity. In Nevada alone, more than 373,000 people are food insecure, many of them children.

Las Vegas produces over 5 billion pounds of trash a year. Most of this waste – food and all – ends up in landfill. If all that wasted food made its way to pantries or shelters, there would be no hunger. Food exists to solve this problem, but instead of being put to good use, it goes to landfills.

Given the vast amounts of food produced in Las Vegas at its more than 40 buffets and over 4,000 restaurants, it is undoubtedly one of the biggest contributors to the abundance of food waste in the United States. The Strip alone has more than 30 resorts, each with restaurants and many with buffets. Everyone produces food waste.

A new method to divert this waste from landfills in Las Vegas is the pig farm. Beach resorts such as Aria, Bellagio, Luxor and The Venetian send mountains of food waste to Las Vegas Livestock, about 30 miles northeast of the city. There, the roughly 4,000 pigs on the farm eat about 20 tons of food waste a day, all from the Strip. But those 20 tons are only part of the problem.

The true extent of the food waste epidemic in Las Vegas is likely unknown. But given that Las Vegas alone consumes nearly 30 tons of shrimp a day, the total amount of food consumed – and wasted – is colossal.

Pigs alone will not solve this problem. Las Vegas, as a world leader in hospitality, must commit to finding a more sustainable solution to combat food waste. More needs to be diverted from landfills, and less needs to be created in the first place.

Food waste is a problem with economic, societal, environmental and moral implications. We must come together to solve this crisis.

Nate Morris is president and CEO of Rubicon, which helps businesses manage waste and recycling issues.