How very Portland

By Sammy Nickalls
Updated February 13, 2018
EC: This Ice Cream Is Made Out of Garbage
Credit: photo courtesy of Salt & Straw

Almost one-third of 430 billion pounds of edible food produced in 2010 was never eaten, according to a 2014 report from the USDA. Beyond the millions of people in hunger, food waste is a several-pronged issue: Not only does food waste generate methane gas that destroys the environment, but it's one of the largest parts of US landfills. That’s exactly what makes this brand of ice cream made with garbage amazing, albeit bizarre. Portland’s Salt & Straw has partnered with the nonprofit Urban Gleaners to roll out a limited-edition "trash" menu of upcycled ice cream, and according to Munchies, it’s delicious.

Salt & Straw founder Tyler Malek came up with the idea after talking to Urban Gleaners founder Tracy Orseran. Urban Gleaners works to "collect and redistribute" excess edible food from restaurants, grocery stores, and food producers, according to Munchies. That's why the organization partnered with Salt & Straw to reach out to businesses, farmers, and nonprofits to collect as much wasted food as they could. The food was tested for possible pathogens before it was mixed into ice cream recipes served in Portland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

"It wasn't easy," Malek told Munchies. "The flavors came down to what was available. We had to really evolve and get innovative with our purchasing and our food safety. We chose the flavors among 22 different people: Our partners from all of our locations in Portland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Each city brought different beneficiaries with different approaches."

Each city ended up having flavors based on food waste collected in its own area. For example, toasted baguette PB&J came about because of an excess of bread acquired by Urban Gleaners, while California's citrus trees led to various citrus flavors. "When you read the flavors, they might not seem as innovative," Malek said. "But if you read into these pairings along with their stories, this was by far the most innovative thing we've ever done."