That Cold-Pressed Juice You Love Buying Is Actually Extremely Wasteful

Food waste and plastic usage are all serious consequences of the juicing fad.

Credit: Catherine Sharman

Juicing has become popular in recent years and there’s a good reason why. For those that don’t love to consume fruits and vegetables whole, juicing offers a consolidated way of downing all those fruits and veggies in one drink. However, juicing can be expensive, time-consuming, and messy, so people often don’t bother doing it at home and wind up buying it at a store. This would be fine except these same people often have no idea just how much is discarded just to make a single cup of juice.

Before you buy your next cold-pressed juice, consider this: A single 16-ounce serving of juice generates, on average, 4.5 pounds of edible food waste.

Most people think that since the food waste is compostable, it’s perfectly ethical to continue buying the juice. However, even those that juice at home don’t bother composting the food waste, and most businesses that make and sell cold-pressed juices don’t do so either. Sending pounds of food waste to composting facilities can be costly because of the sheer amount and weight of it, whereas throwing it away is easier, more accessible, and part of an existing trash fee the business already pays.

The problem goes even deeper than this. As it turns out, juice pulp is almost too compostable for many farmers to accept, causing even the pulp that’s ethically disposed of through composting to be rejected.

“Juice pulp is highly degradable, unlike leaves and lawn clippings. The microbes tear into it, their population grows rapidly, and they consume a great deal of oxygen,” explained Will Brinton, founder of a soil-testing company in Maine.

Once the juice pulp becomes anaerobic, it begins to smell horrible and release acids that slow the breakdown of the food, and the only method to counteract this it to add more oxygen and carbon-based materials like wood chips or sawdust. Incidentally, these materials are much harder for urban farmers to acquire.

Credit: Lori Powell

There are some small-scale solutions that companies, small businesses, and home cooks are employing to reduce their waste, but even these options aren’t very feasible for everyone. The solutions include drying peels to use in animal feed, using the pulp in other food creations, and drying it into veggie chips. Some businesses try to utilize “ugly” fruits and vegetables that most farmers have a tough time selling to larger retailers because consumers won’t buy them, and this doubly sends the message that aesthetics don’t play into the nutritional value of produce.

Something else that needs serious consideration is the vessel in which cold-pressed juices are often delivered in: single-use plastic bottles. In the U.S. alone in 2015, 100 million 16-ounce servings of cold-pressed juice were sold, most of them in plastic cups or bottles, and this contributes highly to the general problem of humans’ reliance on plastic. As the demand for plastic increases, the world’s capacity to contain and recycle that plastic decreases, not to mention the changing climate, which is made worse by the production of plastic.

These are all very important factors to consider before purchasing your next juice and buying into the idea that this juice, a product of whole, delicious foods, is better for yourself and the environment.

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