Tackling Today’s Food Waste

Current efforts to appease the global food waste issue

Photo courtesy of Andrea Leganza

It fuels our bodies, provides us with vitality, and evokes sensory pleasure. It is capable of connecting others, and is a facet to understanding different cultures. Food–which is a commodity–is being wasted everyday, at a global scale.

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization claim that every year, 1.3 billion tonnes of food was wasted and/or lost. It is estimated that developed and developing countries waste food that is approximately worth US$680 and US$310 billion respectively.

Considering the fact that many countries are still facing food insecurity with the anticipation of 9.6 billion people inhabiting the earth by 2050, an increasing trend of global food waste will only exacerbate concerns related to hunger, health, and the environment.

Fortunately,  innovators from all walks of life are currently developing projects and related initiatives to combat food waste. Here’s a list of current initiatives dedicated to reducing food waste, whilst increasing awareness of related issues.

1. Marketing ‘Ugly’ Food

You aren’t what you eat, and beauty is not only skin deep. Imperfect, irregularly shaped foods are still largely edible, beautiful, and flavourful!

Former Trader Joe’s President Doug Rauch is anticipating the launch of Daily Table, an initiative that will attempt to sell expired foods and ‘dumpster-destined produce‘ to Dorchester residents at reduced prices compared to their grocery store counterparts. Rauch is anticipating the launch of this project in September 2014.

The ridiculous, still very edible potato.

Similarly, a French supermarket chain known as Intermarché launched a campaign dedicated to reducing food waste, called Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables. The campaign involves introducing customers to unattractive-looking produce, such as the ‘Hideous Orange’ or the ‘Failed Lemon’, comparing them to their perfect counterparts, and selling them for 30% less. Customers who were unconvinced were given food items made from these unattractive produce, to show them that they tasted identical to supposedly attractive counterparts. The campaign received great feedback, as Intermarché sold their shelves brimming with their ugly produce.

2. Mobile Apps

Photo courtesy of Nick Swift

Photo courtesy of Nick Swift

Reducing food waste may now be easier thanks to our mobile gadgets.

A new mobile app called PareUp features restaurant and grocery stores advertising their excess food, complete with the discounted price and time of sale. App users browse the listings, and can purchase/pick up their desired items at the vendors. Vendors not only make money off this app, but they can also sell food that is not meant to be donated due to food safety regulations. So far, the app will only cater to customers and vendors around New York City, but the developers are anticipating expanding to Washington, Chicago, and even Sydney, London, and Toronto (8)!

Similarly, LeftoverSwap allows users to list their leftovers in their area for others to pick it up and take it home. App co-founder Dan Newman admits that “[LeftoverSwap is] obviously not for everybody“, but the initiative hopes to decrease excessive use of natural resources and exploitation of sensitive environments. The app launched in 2013, and is currently available for free download on the iOS app store (for iPad/iPhones). The organization is currently developing an application that will cater to Android and general web users.

3. ‘Smart Plastic’

Andrew Mills and his colleagues developed an innovative, ‘smart plastic‘ that could inform the consumer of spoiled packaged food. Waterproof, reusable, irreversible,  Ultraviolet (UV), and oxygen sensitive, this plastic contains titanium dioxide nano particles and oxygen-sensitive methylene blue (MB) dye.

The titanium dioxide nano particles provides UV energy, reacting with the MB, reducing it. As a result, the plastic remains colourless, indicating an absence of oxygen. When the plastic packaging is exposed to the air, the MB reacts with the surrounding oxygen, oxidizing the chemical. As a result, the plastic film turns blue. This indicates that the food inside the packaging is in risk of spoilage due to increased microbial growth (because of oxygen presence).

In 2011, it was reported that the technology received £325,000 of funding from the Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept Programme.

Dr. Mill states:

“We hope that this will reduce the risk of people eating food which is no longer fit for consumption and help prevent unnecessary waste of food…We also hope it will have a direct and positive impact on the meat and seafood industries.”

4. Food Waste Into Energy

Photo courtesy of Petter Duvander

Photo courtesy of Petter Duvander

The international Blue Sphere Corporation is dedicated to producing energy from commercial and industrial wastes, known as waste-to-energy projects. The corporation hopes that these international projects will provide electricity during this age of energy shortage, as well as reducing environmental damage by utilizing unwanted waste.

The projects involve constructing power plants that will harvest farm waste, uneaten food, and other commercial/local wastes. These wastes will be broken down by anaerobic bacteria, producing compost and biogas (mostly methane and carbon), that can be utilized to facilitate power steam turbines, generating electricity as a result (11).

Blue Sphere is currently implementing projects in West Africa and the US. Specifically, the company is currently building facility in North Carolina, and is expected to complete the infrastructure in 2015. Blue Sphere also anticipates building 11 additional facilities across the US by the year 2018.

Renee C. has received her B.Sc. in Honours Life Sciences at McMaster University. She loves educating others about different topics in science, and has developed a passion for scientific outreach. When she’s not writing articles for Hemtecks, she’s either volunteering or checking her social media accounts every 20 minutes. Along with Tiffany (Tianhemtecks), she also facilitates the blog’s Facebook page. 


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