Hungering for Food Waste Solutions


As Hunger Action Month ends, let’s examine current food wastage statistics and activities to see where there is momentum, where it leads and the opportunities it passes by.

As an end-of-pipeline solution, the waste and recycling industry recognizes the value of the discarded products and materials that ultimately fall into our systems. Care and effort goes into developing better processes and equipment to recover these marketable or other beneficially reusable materials. To be fair, some pressure to advance these capabilities originated from our customers, along with regulatory and corporate initiatives. It is also true that certain goals and objectives have been counterproductive.

Read More

Fifth of world’s food lost to over-eating and waste, study finds

Encouraging people to eat fewer animal products, reduce waste and not exceed their nutritional needs could help to reverse troubling global trends, researchers say.
Credit: © / Fotolia

Almost 20 per cent of the food made available to consumers is lost through over-eating or waste, a study suggests.

The world population consumes around 10 per cent more food than it needs, while almost nine per cent is thrown away or left to spoil, researchers say.

Efforts to reduce the billions of tonnes lost could improve global food security — ensuring everyone has access to a safe, affordable, nutritious diet — and help prevent damage to the environment, the team says.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh examined ten key stages in the global food system — including food consumption and the growing and harvesting of crops — to quantify the extent of losses.

Using data collected primarily by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the team found that more food is lost from the system than was previously thought.

Almost half of harvested crops — or 2.1 billion tonnes — are lost through over-consumption, consumer waste and inefficiencies in production processes, researchers say.

Livestock production is the least efficient process, with losses of 78 per cent or 840 million tonnes, the team found. Some 1.08 billion tonnes of harvested crops are used to produce 240 million tonnes of edible animal products including meat, milk and eggs.

This stage alone accounts for 40 per cent of all losses of harvested crops, researchers say.

Increased demand for some foods, particularly meat and dairy products, would decrease the efficiency of the food system and could make it difficult to feed the world’s expanding population in sustainable ways, researchers say.

Meeting this demand could cause environmental harm by increasing greenhouse gas emissions, depleting water supplies and causing loss of biodiversity.

Encouraging people to eat fewer animal products, reduce waste and not exceed their nutritional needs could help to reverse these trends, the team says.

The study is published in the journal Agricultural Systems. It was carried out in collaboration with Scotland’s Rural College, University of York, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research.

The research was funded through a Global Food Security Programme supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council and the Scottish Government.

Dr. Peter Alexander, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences and Scotland’s Rural College, who led the study, said: “Reducing losses from the global food system would improve food security and help prevent environmental harm. Until now, it was not known how over-eating impacts on the system. Not only is it harmful to health, we found that over-eating is bad for the environment and impairs food security.”

Professor Dominic Moran, of the University of York, who was involved in the study, said: “This study highlights that food security has production and consumption dimensions that need to be considered when designing sustainable food systems. It also highlights that the definition of waste can mean different things to different people.”




First German supermarket sells waste food only

The first supermarket to sell only salvaged food waste has opened in Germany. It marks a small step towards a zero-waste society – but a major shift in social awareness, says DW reporter Irene Banos Ruiz.

From curious grannies to committed “food-savers”, everyone who came to “The Good Food” when it opened on February 4 was excited by a shop unlike anything they had ever encountered before.

The store in the German city of Cologne is the first of its kind in the country and the third one in the European Union. It sells products of all kinds, from vegetables to beer. And the unusual thing is that all these products would otherwise have been destroyed as waste.

The other peculiar thing about “The Good Food” is that there are no fixed prices. Consumers decide how much they think a product is worth.

You only need to take one look at the figures to understand why Nicole Klaski decided to start “The Good Food”.  Every year, one third of the food produced in the world gets wasted.  If we saved just a quarter of that wasted food, we could feed almost 900 million hungry people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Köln The Good Food Lebensmittel Nicole Klaski Valentin Thurn (DW/I. Barrios) Klaski and Thurn want to stop food waste.

Valentin Thurn is an author and the award-winning director of the “Taste the Waste” documentary. He came along to the opening to celebrate what he sees as a positive move to combat food waste. But he also told DW there were still major challenges to be overcome.

“This idea is simply great,” Thurn said. “I still cannot understand why we throw so much food away!”

The starting point

Well, actually, he says, he does have some idea. “The trade knows we prefer to buy something that looks perfect,” he said.

Indeed, the FAO’s information shows that at retail level, food is mostly wasted because it does not look attractive.

Klaski told DW it was time to take action to change this. She goes into fields after they have been harvested and collects the vegetables left behind. Some of them are deemed too big, some too small, some just too ugly to sell.

In her shop, the organic food then becomes accessible to everyone using a “pay what you think” system. Buyers can also find non-perishable products from big manufacturers which have passed their sell-by dates.

Köln The Good Food Lebensmittel (DW/I. Barrios) A customer checks the label on a bottle from the “past the date but delicious” shelf.

“No one wants to throw the food away,” Klaski said. “We save the vegetables and expired products, and the producers are happy that their food is still eaten.” For her, the system is a “win-win cooperation.”

What about health risks?

Some of the curious visitors having a look around “The Good Food” admitted they would not buy certain products if they were past the date. Others, however, said it was easy to tell by the color or smell if a product was still in good condition or not.

Klaski herself is not worried that there could be health risks involved. “The expiry dates on products are only a suggestion for the consumer,” she told DW. “Most of the products last much longer.”

But in the unfortunate event that someone really did get sick, someone has to carry the responsibility. That is why Klaski says the team takes their duty very seriously to inform consumers when a product is out of date.

“And, of course, if something happens we will have to take the responsibility,” she added. “But we are even willing to do that; it is worth trying.”

Part of a broader movement

Contrary to traditional supermarkets’ aim of making a profit, “The Good Food” aims at having a social impact.

Köln The Good Food Lebensmittel (DW/I. Barrios) “Pay what you like”, says the sign on these products.

“Our highest expectation is to raise awareness on the problem food waste represents,” said Anja Rickert, a member of the team at “The Good Food”.

She believes initiatives like this can motivate people who were not previously aware of issues relating to a sustainable lifestyle.

Klaski is convinced that once the first step is taken, the rest follows on. The food waste shop is part of a broader movement to reduce consumption and be aware of how we consume, she said. The furniture used, for instance, is all second hand or recycled.

And most of the consumers seem to share the same philosophy. “Coming here represents more than just buying food, it is a way of life,” one of the clients told DW.

Beyond the social movement

Author and film-maker Valentin Thurn has observed a huge change in attitudes since he produced “Taste the Waste” in 2010:

“At that time nobody spoke about food waste, literally nobody,” Thurn said. “Now many people are involved, even politicians.”

However, despite strong social movements such as food-sharing, food waste remains one of the major challenges of our time. Merchandising the leftovers is not enough to combat it, Thurn is convinced.  He believes imposing economic penalties could be the only effective way to really reduce waste.

“We have to find real solutions to reduce over-production,” he said. And this can only be done through legislation to influence the economy and businesses models.

“It’s not enough to rely on action from a few big business leaders who are aware of environmental issues,”  he concluded.