According to Unenvironment.org, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year. This is a shocking amount when you consider how many people live in poverty. Young people in Western countries often hear "There are starving people in the world that would love to have your food, so eat it all" as a warning to be appreciative and to not waste. What if we could make it a reality? Diverting surplus meals to those who need it most can solve several major world issues. Here are some initiatives from all over the world that work to end food waste and tackle other societal and environmental issues.
Canada - Big Wheel Burger: This restaurant is a leader in locally sourced food and sustainability. According to their website, they are Canada’s first carbon neutral fast food restaurant, having produced only 67 tonnes of emissions in their first year. With several locations in Victoria, British Columbia, everything produced in this restaurant goes directly back into the community, as well as the restaurant itself - all food scraps, packaging and utensils are used to fuel their garden, in which they then grow food to be eaten again. Additionally, leftover cooking oil is turned into biodiesel to fuel the restaurant's vehicles. I believe if everyone restaurant could model their operations after Big Wheel Burger, cities and landfills wouldn't be so overwhelmed with waste, and consumers would be eating cleaner as well.
Singapore - Zero Waste Masterplan The government of Singapore is implementing a nationwide Zero Waste campaign to address overconsumption and cutting waste in different "streams" - food waste, electronic waste and packaging waste. When it comes to food waste, they are increasing education in schools, supermarkets and within the community. Citizens and businesses are asked to cook reasonable portions and use leftovers to make other meals or donate them. Singapore has also started a trial project that converts water sludge and food scraps into biogas, thereby producing electricity.
United Arab Emirates: UAE Food Waste Pledge - This initiative aims to prevent food waste in the hospitality industry, rather than to direct it elsewhere. With a goal of saving 3 million meals from being wasted by the end of 2020, and cutting general food waste in half by 2030, this initiative has both environment and financial benefits. Using digital monitoring, kitchens can track the amount of food they use and upload it to a database. From there, they can create reports of how much is wasted, and reduce spending in that area.
Hong Kong - Food Waste Hong Kong - In February 2014, the Environment Bureau of Hong Kong published the Food Waste and Yard Waste Plan for Hong Kong 2014-2022. Nearing completion, the goal is to cut the amount of food sent to landfills by 40%, with the vision being "Use Less, Waste Less". Similarly to the UAE, the first step in waste management is to prevent overproduction at the source. The second step is to donate leftovers, third is to recycle, fourth is to convert waste into energy, and finally, send unusable waste to landfills. It will be interesting to see the end result of this initiative; will they have achieved, passed or failed their goal by 2022? What will be the main lessons learned from this project? We will have to wait to find out.
New Zealand - Foodprint -This is an app that aims to cut down on the 50 000 tonnes of food wasted yearly in New Zealand. Restaurants can register as a partner with the website, and advertise their leftover meals at a discounted price. Users can then search for their favourite foods, and filter according to location, price, ratings and other options. I think this is beneficial to both sides - restaurants are able to recoup some of their costs, and users can be exposed to food they otherwise might not have tried. In addition to sustainability factors, it is also a great advertisement method.
Egypt - Anti Food Waste - The Egyptian Food Bank has partnered with Egyptian Hotel Association to create this initiative, This program provides hotels foil containers in which they pack untouched leftovers to be distributed to local charities. Having seen great results in this project, they have expanded it into the community - residents who have held large events can now donate meals too. Not only is this great for reducing food waste, but the local underprivileged population can get access to high quality, healthy meals.
Netherlands - HaagseZwam- This initiative reaches out to local restaurants to collect their discarded coffee grounds. From there, they grow Oyster Mushrooms, which are then used at local restaurants in vegan and vegetarian meals. Any leftover mushrooms are then composted again, and used to grow microgreens. This continuous cycle model is fantastic - nothing gets wasted.
Aruba - Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort - This hotel is certainly a leader in sustainability in the Caribbean. Having won numerous awards, they have gone above and beyond sustainable business practices. The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association indicates that the Bucuti and Tara Beach resort has taken several steps to reducing needless waste. Since 2016 they have reduced food portions after noting that 30% of prior meals were discarded. They also send leftovers to local farms, allowing farmers to reduce how much they spend on animal feed. The theme of helping the local community thrive while maintaining an efficient business seems to be reoccurring; this can be a great model for other businesses considering adding sustainability to their operations to look up to.
Kenya - Solar Freeze - This initiative aims to address postharvest food spoilage due to unreliable electricity. Proper food storage can be difficult due to the immense cost of refrigeration equipment. Using mobile solar-powered cold rooms from Solar Freeze, farmers can extend the shelf life of their produce, and take advantage of better market prices when it comes time to sell. The results are drastic - Food loss has been reduced by 90%, income for youth farmers and rural women has increased by 70%, and food security has been improved. This is a game changer for developing nations.
Indonesia- Coastal Community Development Project - Rural communities along the coast of Indonesia struggle with earning a profit in fishing due to food loss - up to 35% of seafood caught in these areas do not make it to the consumer due to spoilage. With help from the CCDP, fishing communities were supported with refrigeration technology and transportation assistance, allowing participants to tap into new markets and prepare new products. As an added bonus, overfishing due to anticipation of spoilage can be addressed.
This has been a great opportunity to get educated about how food waste is a worldwide issue, and to see what steps individual countries are taking.