Tag Archives: food waste

Thousands of tons of bread are wasted every year — in Sweden alone

The fact that food waste is a big problem is (or at least, should be) already well known. But hearing just how much food is wasted can be sobering. A new doctoral study from Sweden offers a nationwide view of how much bread is wasted every year — and how this food waste could be prevented.

“We have made calculations of the amount of bread waste, analysed the reasons behind it, and suggested solutions. Then we evaluated this in relation to potential environmental savings,” said Pedro Brancoli the lead study author.

Image credits: Douglas Alves.

The project wasn’t focused on bread initially. It mostly aimed to quantify food waste in general and assess what products were most often discarded and placed the biggest burden on the environment. Surprisingly, researchers found that bread — which has not been considered to be a significant waste source before — accounted for much of the environmental damage. The numbers are striking, Brancoli explains.

“We could establish that large amounts of bread are wasted in Sweden. To be more precise, 80,000 tons per year, or about 8 kg per person and year. The current bread distribution system also proved to be a significant source of bread waste. But we were also able to show that the bread that is wasted actually has a significant value,” he explained.

Globally, around a third of all the food produced is wasted, and food waste accounts for 6% of our total greenhouse gas emissions. There are few reliable statistics on bread waste, though some estimates place bread waste at around 30%.

The fact that there’s so much bread could, however, be a blessing in disguise. Bread waste can be used as a raw material to produce a number of different products, Brancoli explains. From animal feed, ethanol, or beer, to the substrate for fungus growth, bread can be used in a number of different applications.

“These alternatives have great potential to reduce the environmental impact in terms of the bread life cycle,” Brancoli said.

He envisions a more circular lifecycle for bread, with products being used for something else instead of simply being discarded. However, in order for that to happen, we need more cooperation between companies across the entire food chain — from wheat-growing to packaging and distribution. In addition to reducing the negative environmental impact, this can also help companies save money long term, the researcher believes.

Ultimately, Brancoli hopes his PhD thesis can start an important conversation around food waste.

“About a third of all food produced is lost on the way from farm to table. This leads to not only an environmental impact, but also unnecessary economic costs and social consequences through reduced access to food. This has led to an increased political and public debate on the need to address food waste, while at the same time increasing interest in the environmental, economic, and social effects it causes,” the researcher concludes.

The PhD thesis was published here.

Dump the plastic: Scientists create edible food packaging films from seaweed

Ever been so hungry that you could hardly wait until the packaging was removed from your food? Don’t worry, this will soon be something of the past.

Researchers and companies have been working for a while now on edible, cost-effective food films as a way to tackle food waste and plastic pollution. Now, an international team has taken it a step forward, creating a film based on sodium alginate – a well-known naturally occurring seaweed biopolymer.

Rammohan Aluru and Grigoriy Zyryanov, part of the team that developed edible food films based on seaweed (stripped off solution of ferulic acid and sodium alginate in a Petri dish). Image credit: UrFu

Sodium alginate is a carbohydrate that can be used to form packaging fils, says Rammohan Aluru, a co-author of the paper describing the material, in a statement. It’s also stable enough to serve as packaging.

Alginates are refined from different species of brown seaweeds such as the giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera and Ascophyllum nodosum. They are currently used in many industries such as food, fertilizers, textile printing, and pharmaceuticals. Even dental impression material uses alginate as its means of gelling.

The film, created with natural ingredients, is safe for health and the environment, is water-soluble, and can dissolve by almost 90% in 24 hours. The researchers crossed-linked the alginate molecules with linked with a natural antioxidant ferulic acid, making the film strong, homogeneous, rigid, and capable of prolonging the life of the products.

Grigory Zyryanov, professor at Ural Federal University and co-author of the paper, said the film keeps food fresh for a longer time thanks to its antioxidant components that slow down the oxidation processes. Plus, natural antiviral agents obtained from garlic, turmeric, and ginger can be added to the film to prevent the spread of viruses and extend the shelf life of food, thus granting it anti-pathogen properties while maintaining its all-natural appeal.

The researchers said the film could be produced without any special requirements, making it accessible by food producers and film manufacturers. They could even be produced at a polymer production plant, Zyryanov argued. And if there’s an ocean nearby, it would be even simpler for any industrial manufacturer to create the films at low cost.

The new film is part of a much larger trend of innovating research being done on edible bio-films or coating materials – with a key role in food preservation, manufacturing, and extending the shelf-life of food materials. They are eco-friendly, easily degradable, and don’t cause health issues even if you forgott to remove them. But most importantly, they would help rid us of our dependence on plastic: a whopping 40% of the plastic we produced is used for packaging.

Expanding the use of bio-films and coating materials would help address food waste, a growing problem. The UN estimates that around one-third of the world’s food is lost or wasted every year. While harvest and retail are usually the main problems, a significant amount of food is also wasted at purchase and consumption. Plus, the food films would help tackle plastic pollution, which grows every year.

Several startups have been working with them for a while now. Evoware is looking at using seaweed to create a plastic-like packaging that can be safely eaten, while Loliware has created edible cups out of seaweed and has now branched to straws. Skipping Rocks Lab is also working to replace the plastic water bottle with a seaweed alternative.

The study was published in the Journal of Food Engineering.

Researchers are using food waste to produce biofuels and reduce emissions

Developed countries (and the US especially) wastes an enormous amount of food. Now, a group of researchers has found a possible solution, developing technologies that can convert food waste into renewable fuel that could be used to power vehicles while tackling greenhouse gas emissions.

Food waste could be turned into something useful. Image credit: Flickr / WMaster

The US is the ignoble global leader in food waste, with Americans discarding nearly 40 million tons of food every year. That’s around 80 billion pounds of food (219 pounds per person) — and between 30 and 40% of the US food supply is wasted. Most of this food is sent to landfills. In fact, food is considered the single largest component taking up space in US landfills. A survey showed 94% of Americans throw away food regularly.

Food waste happens for many reasons, and at every stage of the production and supply chain. It can arise from problems during drying, milling, transporting, or processing, for example with food exposed to bacteria. At the retail level, the equipment can malfunction and lead to food loss. Consumers also contribute, buying or cooking more than they actually need.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have been working for decades to efficiently produce fuels derived from plants or animal wastes rather than petroleum. So far they managed to create biofuels from feedstock such as agricultural residues, algae, forest byproducts, sewer sludge, and manure.

Now, they’ve decided to take it a step further and tackle food waste, successfully converting it into an energy-dense biofuel that could complement today’s fossil fuels. While further research is still needed, early results already show that food waste could be transformed into biofuel efficiently at a large scale, delivering economic and environmental benefits, the researchers explain.

The process starts by blending the food waste. The researchers used a piece of customized equipment known as the Muffin Monster that grinds everything, including wrappers and packaging. They obtain a mush and warm it so it can be continuously pumped into a reactor and converted into fuel. Still, they want to further improve the process by testing different types of food waste.

Thanks to its higher fat content and lower mineral content, more gallons of biofuel could be produced per ton of food waste than with other feedstocks, according to Steven Ashby, the director of Northwest National Laboratory. Food waste can be made into a pumpable slurry, simplifying biofuel production and reducing the pre-processing cost needed with the other feedstocks.

The researchers also believe that food waste could be obtained much cheaper than other feedstocks, which have higher cultivation and harvesting costs. Food waste is generated in abundance across the US and people are willing to pay for its disposal. Using it instead of growing crops also prevents arable land to be used to fuel rather than food.

At the same time, turning this waste into fuel would prevent it from going to landfills. When waste decomposes, it generates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas (GHG) that drives climate change if it’s not captured. A United Nations report estimated that global food waste generates annually 4.4 GtCO2 eq or about 8% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions.

The researchers are now specifically assessing the resources available near Detroit, Michigan, so to establish the mixture of food waste, sewage sludge, and fats, oils, and greases that could be consolidated and used to produce biofuel. They estimate that the production of biofuel plants could be 10 times larger in urban areas by including food waste while tackling emissions. Still, in order to use this method at a large scale, a hefty amount of infrastructure needs to be built.

The average American wastes almost a pound of food every day

“Imagine coming home with four bags of groceries and throwing one straight into the trash. That’s really what is happening in most households,” said Karen Bakies, lead author of the new study and vice president of nutrition affairs for the American Dairy Association Mideast in Columbus, Ohio.

The new survey — carried out by the American Dairy Association Mideast, which aims to provide science-based nutrition information — found that food waste is virtually ubiquitous in the US: 94% of Americans throw away food, and the average family wastes around one-third of the food they buy. Overall, the average American wastes 250 pounds (114 kg) of food a year.

“Whether people are over purchasing groceries or getting tired of their leftovers, too much food is being thrown away in America,” Bakies adds.

This is problematic for many reasons. For starters, all that food takes a lot of energy and resources to produce, package, and transport, which in turn generates greenhouse gas emissions. This means that when you throw away food, you essentially throw away much more than food — you also waste the energy invested to produce it. Disposing of the food also requires resources such as water or labor. Secondly, food is not a luxury that everyone can afford — even in the US. Around 40 million Americans struggle with food, and 2.9 million households with children are food insecure at some time each year.

Lastly, food also costs money, which of course means that food waste literally flushes money down the drain.

“A family of four could save up to $2,000 by wasting less food, but it’s not just great for your family, it’s also great for your community. Just half of that money is enough to provide over 8,000 meals to those in need.” said Bakies. “And if you do find yourself with extra groceries, donate them to a local food pantry rather than letting them go to waste.”

The good news is that things can be improved with a few simple tips, researchers say. Here are some of them:

  • Organize your fridge. “First in first out” is a good rule of thumb, because foods often get forgotten at the back of the fridge.
  • Use the freezer. Almost all leftovers, both from cooked food or other ingredients (bread, fruits, etc) can be frozen and reheated at a later time. This not only prevents food waste, but can give you a free meal later.
  • Get creative when cooking. Maybe you bought some yogurt for a cake, and there’s a bit left over. You can either freeze that or use it in another recipe, like a salad or another cake.
  • Don’t over-buy. Sometimes (especially when we’re hungry) we tend to buy out at the supermarket, and often times, we buy more than we need. Keep a mental note of what’s left in the fridge and buy foods that complement those — use everything!

The USDA also has a really useful app, called FoodKeeper. The app can tell you how to store and cook over 400 foods and even sends alerts when food in your refrigerator is approaching the end of its recommended storage life.

Pumpkins.

This Halloween, do the right thing — fight food waste and eat your pumpkin

The scariest monster this Halloween is food waste.

Pumpkins.

Image credits Alexa / Pixabay.

Throw up your spider webs and hang those skeletons, Halloween is here! As all terrors let loose on the day, excessive food waste is also making an appearance. Millions of pumpkins have been bought for the occasion — and most of them will end up in the landfill, not beneath a pie’s crust. Which is a shame, as pumpkins are delicious.

Pies for everyone! But not really

Eight million pumpkins will get binned on November 1st in the UK alone, The Guardian reports. It’s a terrible waste of a very tasty treat. It’s a downright tragic waste, as the squashes could be used to make “enough pumpkin pie to feed the entire [UK] nation,” the publication adds, citing a study commissioned by stock brand Knorr.

Roughly 58% of all consumers will buy a pumpkin to carve this Halloween, according to the Hubbub Foundation, a charity that creates environmental campaigns “with a difference”. Over half of these buyers (51%) will throw away the pumpkin and leftovers, without cooking or composting it, they add. Only about one-third of buyers will try to cook the pumpkin’s innards.

“Halloween has become increasingly popular in the UK, but unlike those on the other side of the pond, many Britons aren’t cooking with their pumpkin carvings – instead they’re throwing them away,” said Tessa Tricks of Hubbub. “This is contributing to the overwhelming amount of waste thrown away by UK households each year.”

The Hubbub Foundation, which runs the #PumpkinRescue campaign, focused on data in the UK. But the findings translate well to every other country with enthusiastic adherence to Halloween traditions, such as the US. Writing for Inhabitat, Perry Miller says that the land of the apple pie will trash 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins after the festivities. All that extra trash will wind up in the landfill, which wastes money and is bad for the environment. Once there, the pumpkins will start to rot away, releasing methane and carbon dioxide — both greenhouse gases.

Pumpkin patch.

Image credits Vlad Vasnetsov.

Canada will also see its fair share of pumpkin waste. Farmer Rob Galey told Inhabitat that pumpkin patches attract thousands of visitors each year from all over the country. They will buy a pumpkin and take it home, but don’t intend to eat it. They’re buying a metaphor, Rob explains. Something that represents an abundant fall harvest, something that will look good in a photo — but not food.

There’s also an ethical side to consider here. Some Halloween pumpkins are inedible and specified as “for ornamental use only” but the flesh of most is edible. With so many people starving across the world, can we make peace with ourselves for this gratuitous display of disregard for food?

I for one am really excited every time Halloween swings by. It’s more of an adopted holiday around these parts, and Halloween traditions haven’t had time to grow roots here. But I will buy a pumpkin and carve it, without fail, every year.

And throw it in the oven the next day with a sprinkling of sugar and a dash of cinnamon.

If you’re looking for tips on how to cook your plump Halloween pumpkin, Hubbub’s #PumpkinRescue campaign page has some pretty nifty suggestions. If you’re in the UK, you can also check out some of the events they’re holding from the 5th October through to November 5th all over the isles, ranging from “carving and cooking workshops to soup tasting.”

We waste a pound of food every day

Scientists have measured just how much food American families waste, and they found a surprising correlation between how healthily we eat and how much food we throw away.

Image credits: Steven Lilley / Flickr.

Wasting food

By now, it should surprise no one that we throw away a lot of food — a lot. Roughly a third of all the world’s food (approximately 1.3 billion tonnes) is wasted every year. Much of that falls on distributors and retailers, but regular consumers are also a big part of the problem. Now, a new study has found that between 2007-2014, US consumers wasted nearly 150,000 tons of food per day — that’s about a pound (422 grams) per person, every day. This corresponds to 30 million acres of land and 4.2 trillion gallons of irrigation water being wasted. In terms of total calorie consumption, 30 percent of the average daily intake.

To sum it up, a third of what Americans eat is wasted in the households.

The data was gathered from the 2015 Healthy Eating Index and USDA’s What We Eat in America (WWEIA) database, as well as publicly available food waste data.

Researchers also found a correlation which is surprising at a first glance: healthy eaters waste more than unhealthy eaters. But, if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense: healthy eaters base their diet on fruits and vegetables, which go bad fast. Unhealthy eaters tend to eat much more processed foods, which have a longer shelf life.

“Higher quality diets have greater amounts of fruits and vegetables, which are being wasted in greater quantities than other food,” says co-author Meredith Niles, a University of Vermont assistant professor. “Eating healthy is important, and brings many benefits, but as we pursue these diets, we must think much more consciously about food waste.”

Researchers also found that healthier diets used less cropland than lower quality diets, but require more irrigation water and pesticides, which is somewhat surprising.

“Most existing research has looked at greenhouse gas emissions or land use and its link with different diets,” says Niles, a researcher at UVM’s Gund Institute for Environment and Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences. “This study is the first to consider food waste as another important component of varying diet outcomes.”

Embrace imperfect food

Healthy fruits and veggies are delicious regardless of their shape.

There are several ways to combat food waste, but one small thing that we can all do is embrace imperfect food — fruits and vegetables that have an odd shape or have a few blemishes but are still sound and perfectly edible. French and British food retailers have already implemented policies where they sell such vegetables at a lower price, and the campaigns are enjoying great success.

Another thing you can do is have a general idea of what you are going to eat over the week. Most people shop on weekends, and if you do that, it helps to have a grocery list or at least a vague plan of what you’d like to eat. Try to eat what you want, and not what’s on discount at the supermarket. Oftentimes, we’re tricked by 2 for 1 sales or similar offers and buy much more than we actually need. Essentially, we will start being more aware of what we eat (and what we throw away), it only takes common sense and a very small effort to substantially reduce our environmental impact. It’s one of those small things we can do that has a very important consequence.

“Food waste is an issue that plays out at many different levels. Looking at them holistically will become increasingly important to finding sustainable ways of meeting the needs of a growing world population,” concludes lead author Zach Conrad at the ARS Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center, Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The study has been published in PLoS ONE.

edible-fruit-map

Falling Fruit map shows where to find free food in and around your town

Why buy red cherries when you can forage them from nearby? Credit: Pexels.

Why buy red cherries when you can forage them from nearby? Credit: Pexels.

Money doesn’t grow on trees but food does. Even if you live in a mega metropolis like New York or London, you’ll still find many fruit trees in the parks or surroundings woods. Unfortunately, most of the time all these fruits are left to rot on the streets. This is a huge waste, especially when you consider half of all our food, which you probably paid for, gets thrown away. 

Seeking to address this issue, a group of dedicated young people started Falling Fruit, a non-profit that aims to build the most comprehensive map of free edibles throughout the world.

Falling Fruit imported datasets which range from small neighborhood foraging maps to vast professionally-compiled tree inventories. Foragers, foresters, and freegans are also welcome to register an account and contribute. Tagging and labeling a fruit orchard in some city park or woods is as easy as using Google Maps.

edible-fruit-map

There are many tagged fruit trees and plants in the San Francisco Bay area, for instance. Credit: Falling Fruit screenshot.

So far, Falling Fruit features 1,798 different types of edibles (most, but not all, plant species) distributed over 1,198,682 locations, most of which are in the United States.

“Falling Fruit is a celebration of the overlooked culinary bounty of our city streets. By quantifying this resource on an interactive map, we hope to facilitate intimate connections between people, food, and the natural organisms growing in our neighborhoods. Not just a free lunch! Foraging in the 21st century is an opportunity for urban exploration, to fight the scourge of stained sidewalks, and to reconnect with the botanical origins of food,” the volunteers write on their project’s website. 

You should be mindful, however, of some caveats when foraging fruit trees in cities, especially if these are heavily polluted. One of the most important contaminants alongside roadsides is particle matter — the microscopic bits of carbon that can damage our lungs when inhaled. It’s because of particle matter spewed by the exhaust of vehicles or even fossil fuel power plants that you get that ‘smoky’ appearance on buildings. A much bigger health concern, however, is the metals in the soil and air. Plants can take up metals through their roots, so there is a risk to intake mercury, arsenic, and lead. Most plants, however, don’t efficiently move metals from the roots up into the shoots so it’s unlikely to see roadside fruits contaminated with heavy metals. 

The bottom line is that you should be pretty safe eating roadside fruit most of the time, though you should be mindful of root vegetables which may be contaminated with heavy metals. Always wash roadside fruit before consuming them. Peel them before eating to be extra safe.

Happy foraging, everyone!

The Food Chain Project: Fighting Food Waste With Art

People in the developed world generally waste a lot of food – a lot! Nearly 100 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the European Union, which comes in at about 280 kg (620 lb) per person per year. Things are even worse in the US, where the waste is 295 kg (650 lb). With that in mind, Israeli-Dutch artist Itamar Gilboa has started a new project where he monitored everything he ate during a year and made a work of art out of it. It’s hard to imagine just how much food we eat… and how much we buy, but never use.

The Food Chain Project is a pop-up supermarket made entirely of sculptural groceries that represent Itamar Gilboa’s consumption over 365 days — which is similar to most of us. Most of what he consumed is what you’d expect (apples, burgers, cheese and so on), and in the end, everything added up to 6,000 products. Thinking about his personal consumption habits, Gilboa started to research the social implications of individual consumption choices on global food issues. By presenting the 6000 products he consumed in a year, Gilboa aimed to raise awareness and generate a wider discussion on global food issues.

It took him three years to replicate all the items, building them from white plaster and materializing them into a unique exhibition. He then turned the exhibition into his “traveling supermarket”, taking it around the world for everyone to see. The message he’s sending is simple and powerful: the items are generic, they could be any product, and they could be used to end someone’s hunger – but we’re throwing them away.

Gilboa is part of a newer breed of artists, one that doesn’t aim to put itself in the center of art. Instead, he chooses bigger, broader topics, which affect more people, while still maintaining a down-to-earth approach. It’s art made not only to be beautiful, but also to stir up ideas and debates. Personally, I feel that this is a great approach, which can lead to some much-needed discussions.

‘Interestingly, as an artist I am not necessarily concerned with creating works that represent who I am. Rather I focus on larger subjects matters. Taking myself as the starting point in my work I am able to grasp these subjects. I am able to focus on consumption issues, migration or violence without being pompous. In this sense I see my work as social sculptures; in the end I have a story to tell’.

This app lets you buy leftover food from UK restaurants – and it’s really cheap

Image credits armigeress/Flickr

If I had to vote for one relatively small thing which could go a long way towards improving society, it’d be reducing food waste. We waste an insane amount of food, up to 50% of the total production in the developed world, while hundreds of millions of people are facing food insecurity every single day. The key to reducing that waste, scientists say, is simply being more responsible. It’s small things that can go a long way, and it’s creative solutions like this which could make a difference.

Too Good To Go, an app operating in the UK, allows users to order leftover food at a discount from restaurants. The price varies between 2 and 3.8 pounds ($2.6 – $5), but since restaurant kitchens end up with a bunch of food which would otherwise be thrown away, it’s also a good deal for them. The process is really simple. You log in, pick a restaurant and pay through the app.

The idea, however, isn’t getting a cheap meal or making a bit of extra profit – it’s about keeping food inside our bellies instead of the garbage bin. And I’m a huge believer in food-in-bellies. Hopefully, we’ll see more efforts focused towards reducing food waste in the future, be them apps, legislature, or startups.

 

Tesco, world’s second largest food retailer, to give all unsold food to charity

If we want to ensure food security for humanity in the future, then curbing out food waste is essential. Tesco is taking steps in the right direction, agreeing to a deal to donate all unsold food from its stores to charity.

Photo by Iew0rdo3.

The food giant plans to eradicate all its food waste by 2017, rolling out several projects to achieve this goal. It started selling “wonky veg” boxes, to encourage consumers to buy “uglier” foods. They rolled out a 14-store pilot programme called the Community Food Connection which provided the equivalent of 50,000 meals to vulnerable people. Now, they’re rolling out the big guns, working with 5,000 local charities across the UK to donate all their unsold food.

According to figures published by the company 55,400 tonnes of food were thrown away at its stores and distribution centres across the country in 2015. This would be the equivalent of over 125,000,000 meals, if all the food is edible. Even if half of it is edible, that still brings a huge amount of meals which could go a long way, saving not only resources but also providing food to tens of thousands of people who couldn’t otherwise afford it.

The project will roll out in 15 of the largest British cities, gradually spreading out to cover the entire country. Tesco has also created a platform that allows food retailers to liaise with staff and charities in the distribution of surplus food. Another partner is the food waste company FareShare. Together, they launched a digital open platform called FareShare FoodCloud. They encourage other retailers to join the FoodCloud, creating a nation-wide platform.

Tesco is not the first British retailer to start this type of project. Morrisons recently launched a similar project and is already implementing it, while Sainsburys has been working with local farms for a few years, giving away unsold food.

In very recent times, Western Europe is taking huge strides to limit food waste. Last year, France has basically outlawed wasting food, forcing its big retailers to give unsold items to charity.

Community Fridge in Spain lets people avoid food wasting by sharing

Food waste is a growing problem throughout the world; on one hand, we’ve got so many people starving or living in food insecurity, and on the other hand, in places like Western Europe or the US people are wasting almost 50% of what they eat. It seems rational to find ways to send the excess food to the places where it’s most needed, but that doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should. With that in mind, people in Galdakao, Spain, took initiative.

Image via Philip Brewer

They launched what they call the Community Fridge – a regular white fridge placed in the middle of the town where anyone can drop food or leftovers and anyone can come in and take it. This one fridge has already saved 300 kg or about 661 pounds of food in just two months. The creators of the fridge are adamant that the service is not a charity – anyone can come and just take whatever food they want.

Of course, there are a few regulations though – you can’t donate raw fish, meat or eggs, for health reasons. Also, all the food has to be within its expiration date and anything homemade should have a label with the ingredients; reasonable rules, and so far, the program seems to enjoy its success. Other Spanish cities have expressed interest in adopting their own Community Fridge.

This is not the first time this kind of idea has been put forth. In Pumpipumpe in Switzerland residents place stickers on their mailbox to mark goods they can lend to neighbors and that works out just fine. A man in the Saudi city of Hail has also put a fridge outside his house and called on neighbours to fill it with food for the needy. However, in Yolo County, California, several University of California graduate students placed a community fridge on their lawn, sharing what they didn’t need. People loved the idea and it worked just as it should, until the Yolo County Health Department caught wind of the experiment, they shut it down. County officials claimed the fridge was an illegal food facility.

“He’s started a food business. The food’s not from an approved source. He can’t guarantee its safety. There are so many unknowns that there is a high risk to the public,” said April Meneghetti, a Yolo County environmental health specialist.

That idea doesn’t fly in the US, and it seems like some people would rather throw food away than risk sharing it with others, but I certainly think this idea is worth spreading. Sure, you need someone to actually verify the contents of the fridge periodically and take out the food that goes bad, but for 150 kg of food per month, with one fridge? I think that’s worth it.

Seattle garbage collector Anousone Sadettanh empties a small residential garbage bin into his truck in 2014. It is now illegal to toss out food with the trash in the city. Residents will get warning tags for now; the city will start imposing fines in July. Elaine Thompson/AP

Seattle is the first US city that requires citizens to separate food waste from trash

Seattle, an US city with one of the highest recycling rates in the country, is now effectively mandating its citizens to separate food waste from trash cans. Those who do not comply risk a fine, but also a red tag on their garbage cans for all the other neighbors to see. Basically, it’s a shaming act – will it work?

Seattle garbage collector Anousone Sadettanh empties a small residential garbage bin into his truck in 2014. It is now illegal to toss out food with the trash in the city. Residents will get warning tags for now; the city will start imposing fines in July. Elaine Thompson/AP

Seattle garbage collector Anousone Sadettanh empties a small residential garbage bin into his truck in 2014. It is now illegal to toss out food with the trash in the city. Residents will get warning tags for now; the city will start imposing fines in July.
Elaine Thompson/AP

The measure, in effect since January 1st, makes Seattle the first city in the nation to fine homeowners for not properly disposing of their food waste. Seattle Public Utilities estimates that every family in the city throws away some 400 pounds of food each year, which eventually wind up in landfills. A more sound alternative is composting the food waste. Composting provides a way not only of reducing the amount of waste that needs to be disposed of, but also of converting it into a product that is useful for gardening, landscaping, or house plants.

[AMAZING] Seattle plans a city park with edible plants 

Each household is given special bin for disposing of the organic waste and the city park handles all the waste for free. Basically, Seattle’s residents just need to be careful and considerate. If not, households risk a  $1 fine per violation, but apartments, condos and commercial buildings could be fined $50 starting from July. Until then, though, residents are noticed with a red flag on their bins whenever they violate the rule, part of a citywide educational campaign that aims to increase awareness on the matter. Also starting July, households will be fine if they do not correctly sort and dispose of recyclable material.

“I’m sure neighbors are going to see these on their other neighbors’ cans,” says Rodney Watkins, a lead driver for Recology CleanScapes, a waste contractor for the city.

“Right now, I’m tagging probably every fifth can,” Watkins says for NPR. “I don’t know if that’s just the holidays, or the fact that I’m actually paying a lot more attention.”

“You can see all the oranges and coffee grounds,” he says, raising one lid. “All that makes great compost. You can put that in your compost bin and buy it back next year in a bag and put it in your garden.”

Seattle’s recycling rate has fallen a tad last year to 49% from 50% in 2013. These latest measures are a bid to improve the state’s overall recycling, which is nevertheless one of the highest in the US.

The App that could fight food waste

According to the EPA, Americans waste some 30-40 percent of all the food they use. Even not considering the poorest areas such as Africa or SE Asia where food is almost a luxury, there are 50 million Americans who don’t have daily access to adequate food; reducing food waste could improve and save countless lives.

Wasted food is a huge problem throughout the entire digital world. Image via Wiki Commons.

Food waste is a huge problem throughout the entire developed world, but a simple app may go a long way to changing that. The PareUp app will be launched in New York City first, where, according to the PareUp website, 6.5 billion pounds of food are thrown away daily; 6.5 billion pounds of food wasted every day, and that’s just New York.

Ironically, the biggest food wasters are those who profit most from food: restaurants and supermarkets – and this is PareUp steps in. Their goal is to connect the individual consumer with these businesses, allowing both parties the opportunity to buy and sell food that would otherwise go to waste. Supermarkets and restaurants would get a chance to make an extra buck from something they would literally throw away, and consumers will get a chance to get good food at discounted prices. They created a simple yet effective win-win scenario for all parties involved.

A big part of the wasted food is food which doesn’t hit the shelves in the first place – like for example vegetables with a weird shape, or simply foods which are just as tasty the others but have some feature that deems them subpar. These would also be spared and end up in someone’s belly, instead of the garbage can. The clear and simple solution would be to directly donate these to local shelters or food banks, but unfortunately, food-safety regulations for many of these organizations disallow them from accepting it. Also, the costs of transportation outweigh the price of the food sometimes. Also, it raises a somewhat ethical discussion – if these foods aren’t good enough for the general consumer, why would they be good for orphanages or homeless shelters?

Personally, I think the simple system this app uses can work out really fine. It’s your choice if you want to eat cheaper food which would otherwise be thrown away. It’s sustainable, and I certainly don’t consider it shameful. Personally, if it comes to my area, I’ll definitely use the app – and proudly.

wasted_food

Don’t blame Tesco for mass food wastage, get creative and make your weekly shop go further

wasted_food

Courtesy of gopure.com

Tesco recently hit the news once again in a whirlwind of controversy as it was revealed that the UK supermarket giant wasted 28,000 tonnes of food in the first half of 2013.

As most of us would guess, the common wastage culprits were the typical items we’re all guilty of forgetting about, failing to use or allowing to go pass their sell-by dates, such as bagged salad and bakery goods.

Understandably the news has sparked argument amongst the general public, with some vehemently blaming the supermarkets and others stating that we should all start taking more responsibility for our meal planning and purchasing.

Because while Tesco could certainly make more effort to implement ‘food saving’ measures, a substantial amount of wastage occurs within the home. According to Tesco, 35% of bagged salad is thrown out by consumers at home, 17% is lost in the field and 15% is lost through processing.

Tesco have since acknowledged their role in helping to stem food wastage and have pledged to reduce the amount of frivolous offers held as well as changing salad packaging to re-sealable bags. So supermarket blame aside, what can we do within our own homes to ensure we’re utilising our food in the most efficient way possible?

Get Storage Savvy

Separating packs of meat into portions for freezing can seem annoying when you’ve just dragged in 5 grocery bags, but it not only saves you money through reduced wastage, but also helps you to control your portion sizes. We all know that cooking and attempting to eat a full pack of sausages is tempting when they’re about to go out of date (before failing and binning them!), so by separating your meat you’ll be able to defrost and eat only what you need to use.

You can also use separating your meat as a quick way to create tasty meals – simply pop some chicken into a food storage bag and pour in some of your favourite marinade (or make your own with lemon, garlic, rosemary and olive oil), give it a shake, allow to marinade for 4-12 hours before popping in the freezer. You’ll have a tasty piece of meat to simply defrost and pop in the oven.

Get Creative With Your Leftovers

Trust us, getting creative with your leftovers is seriously ‘chef-like’, you can create really sophisticated flavours by using odd and ends you’d usually throw away. A little almost-ready-to-throw-out cured meat such as bacon or chorizo is beautiful when added to stews, pasta sauces and pizzas and meagre lumps of cheese make a fantastic topping when grated and mixed with breadcrumbs.

food_Wasted_infographic

Don’t Be Seduced By Offers

‘Buy one get one half price’ toilet paper might be great, but the same principle doesn’t always apply to perishables such as yogurts. Do you really need extra items than you’d usually purchase? If no then don’t be drawn in by offers which will ultimately end up wasted.

Scale Back On ‘Refrigerator’ Only Products

If you’re guilty of throwing away fresh fruit and salad regularly, then consider opting for dried, canned or frozen varieties instead, they can be really useful for bulking out a meal and adding to cereals. There’s a great range of frozen vegetable choice out there and in many cases they’ll be advertised as picked then frozen quickly to retain maximum nutrients. You’ll also get much more out of 1 pack than if you purchased fresh, saving money too. Of course, fresh fruit and vegetables are important, but if you’re typically throwing them away then try to replace some of your regulars with frozen varieties.

Of course, we don’t need to tell you what you already know, if you’re well aware of the products that regularly end up in the bin, then consider changing your purchasing habits to something you can keep fresher for longer or opt for a freezer-friendly substitute. It’s also worth seeing if any shelters or charities near you could do some with help, that way if you’re faced with a ‘mass leftover’ generated stew then you can feed your family and offer support to the homeless too.

Victoria is writing on behalf of Resource and Environmental Consultants (REC) Ltd. REC specialise in a range of corporate environmental services and air quality assessments.