Welcome to #TRVSTLOVES. We curate news, ideas, and inspiration from across the world that demonstrate how real action can accomplish a positive social impact. This time we’re looking at food waste and some of the inspiring yet perhaps unconventional ways to tackle the problem.
Upcycling food waste is an emerging trend. Just as you might upcycle old clothes or a worn-out jacket, the idea is to breathe a new lease of life into leftovers. While this initially may not sound all that appetizing, consider these examples of upcycled food, including banana chips made from bruised, overripe fruit and a flour called supergrain made from beer brewing leftovers.
The upcycled food association has recently created a logo to let consumers know that the food they’re about to purchase has been at least 10% upcycled; they anticipate this will encourage people to make their own, direct positive contributions towards food waste.
We’re hoping that this will take off through proper education, but the messaging will have to be on point, as people can be particularly sensitive around the freshness of their food. In the UK, for example, many people believe that the ”best before” date means that food has gone past its best, which results in an extraordinary amount of food waste. This had led WRAP to recently release new guidance around how best before dates shouldn’t be a barrier to redistribution to try and reframe this school of thought.
Related: Check out our list of food waste facts and statistics for further information on the size of this global problem.
Biogas is a renewable fuel created from the microbes living on organic raw materials, such as vegetable cuttings and raw materials. By all accounts, biogas has the potential to power households from the scraps in our food waste bin, yet uptake is incredibly low, why?
The Horizon 2020 Isabel project helps to explore why this is the case, with results showing that there is “poor public understanding of the technology and its benefits” as well as concerns around unpleasant odors and installations invading the landscape.
As with anything new, there will always be pros and cons, and the difficulty is often knowing whether the pros outweigh the negatives. Pros for biogas include its suitability for use in rural areas and, of course, the big one; it’s a zero-emissions process. It also relies on renewable and natural materials, which puts it ahead of many alternatives.
The cons? Well, large-scale production for the wider population isn’t yet possible, and even if it were, it wouldn’t be suitable for urban areas as it requires an abundance of raw material. So while we’re not at a point where it can become a viable concept on a large scale yet, further innovation could make it very promising in the future.
Have you heard of gene editing? It’s the latest from scientists looking to tackle food waste. Around 14% of food produced globally is lost between harvest and retail, and about 17% of total global food production is waste; stats like these push us towards these fairly dramatic solutions.
Gene editing uses technology to tweak an organism’s DNA to help make it more robust, i.e., less resistant to parasites, easier to transport, and gives it a longer shelf life. Evidently, gene editing differs from genetically modified (GM) crops as it doesn’t insert or remove DNA.
While it’s still a technology in progress, there are targets for gene-edited potatoes to launch in 2023. Despite this, it’s fair to say that the introduction of genetically modified food will very much depend on public trust and confidence. If you’re interested in learning more, this short little video is concise and to the point, but it’s definitely one of those subjects that the more you know about it, the more questions unfold!
Food waste has been a global problem for far too long, but what about Covid? How has that impacted our relationship with food waste? For South East Asia, it’s been a “wake up call” to act, as the pandemic “exposed the vulnerabilities of supply networks.”
For something that wasn’t once considered an issue, hotels and airlines now view food waste as a key challenge to overcome. With technology carving a way forward, we’re now seeing a number of startups, such as Lumitics, come forward with new and exciting solutions. The Singapore-based company uses data analytics to give insights into what we throw away, allowing kitchens to optimize what they’re using and, according to Lumitics, reduce food waste by up to 40%.
The connection between Covid and food waste is intriguing; can we really say it fundamentally affected our attitudes and behaviors? According to WRAP, during the pandemic, we planned more, were more aware of use-by dates, and used ingredients more creatively and efficiently.
We also consumed less takeaway food, which, as you can imagine, saved a huge amount of waste. With seven in ten of us looking to maintain these new habits, here’s hoping it will be a long-term thing.
In hot climates, keeping food fresh has additional obstacles; for example, in Nigeria, fresh food starts to turn bad after sitting outside all morning at the market. The solution? Solar-powered cold storage, keeping food fresh for a whole lot longer.
Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu launched Coldhubs in 2015 and now has 54 units in 22 states across Nigeria, storing up to 40,000 tons of food. The storage boxes have also created jobs, and Nnaemeka is keen to add that these jobs have been taken up by women, helping empower them and make them change agents in their own households and communities.
Food waste in Nigeria is a huge problem, with about 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted annually, even though it’s estimated around 12million people are hungry, and a big part of the problem is indeed food storage, so these solar-powered cold storage units are helping to solve a very specific problem. There are also plans to scale this initiative up, expand to other countries, and develop solar technology to freeze fresh food such as fish.
Sam produces our regular #TRVSTLOVES where she seeks out inspiration, news, and ideas from across the globe that both highlight and celebrate how actions can make for social and environmental change.
Sam is passionate about seeking out small businesses that are implementing remarkable and exciting projects to tackle the climate crisis; she enjoys exploring how their innovation will help change the future of our world.
A degree in English Literature from the University of Southampton has given Sam the research expertise to share and contextualize stories around innovative projects, legislation, and changemakers.