Forget Eating Clean… Is This The Year Of Eating Green?
Food waste has been an issue for as long as we can remember. ‘Waste not, want not’ was a saying a lot of us were brought up hearing.
But did we ever really pay attention? Did we think twice about throwing away our dinner leftovers, when we knew we were making too much when we first began cooking them? Did we even pause to consider whether we shouldn’t buy a family pack of carrots when we knew we wouldn’t be able to finish it? Did we consider the implications of falling for ‘buy one, get one free’, when we knew we only needed one?
The latest statistics reassert what we already know – no, we didn’t think. Well, the vast majority of us anyway. True, we always found it annoying throwing away leftover food, although very few of us thought about the implications beyond this. The latest statistics (those for year end 2015, by waste and recycling advisory body Wrap) show how Britain binned £13bn worth of food in 2015 – that’s 7.3 million tonnes, 4.4 million of which was deemed ‘avoidable’ (waste that was edible, as opposed to inedible waste such as eggshells, teabags, peelings and so on). To break it down further, that means the average UK household wasted £470 worth of food, which went in the bin when it could have been eaten – waste which generated 19m tonnes of greenhouse gases over its lifetime.
The picture isn’t any better overseas, either. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, roughly one third (or 1.3 billion tonnes) of the food produced for global human consumption is lost or wasted. In the US alone, 133 billion pounds worth of food is wasted annually. As a result, the US government have proposed a goal to halve the amount of food waste by 2030, in a move similar to that of the UK government, who have proposed the move toward a ‘zero waste economy’.
Although waste has been an issue for years – and one relatively unaddressed at that, the general population finally seems to be stepping up. Research agency Mintel forecasted ‘Waste Not’ – reducing food waste and increasing sustainability – to be one of the key global food and drink trends for 2017. Consumer awareness is spreading, complimented by an increase in waste-awareness publicised by supermarkets and food outlets globally.
Supermarkets and large retailers have certainly altered their attitudes toward food waste. This change in attitudes began with the ‘wonky veg’ initiative adopted by many retailers which involved the sale of ‘wonky veg’. Many people were shocked when it was publicised just how much food is wasted without even being sold simply because its physical appearance isn’t quite up to standard. A trend kickstarted by Intermarché in France, this saw ‘wonky veg’ on sale at a cut price.
This was swiftly adopted by UK retailers like ASDA for example, who have sold ‘ugly’ produce at a 30% discount since January 2015. Now, all of the multiples have a similar scheme – using ‘ugly’ veg in basic ranges, ready meals, ready prepared salads and more, in order to maximise the use of crops and minimise unnecessary ranges.
Typical of the 21st century however, the latest development has been technical – ‘there’s an app for that’ seems to be the token phrase nowadays, and waste is no exception. Phone Apps have been cropping up worldwide, allowing consumers to get their hands on cheap food which would otherwise be wasted. Too Good To Go is one of these – having originated in Denmark, the app is now available for use in Brighton, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and London.
It allows restaurants and other food service establishments to list their unsold food inventory towards the close of business, and app users can buy food directly from their devices for as little as half the price. The app supplies restaurants with recyclable packaging, and in addition to helping cut down on food waste, it can also help food businesses generate more revenue by selling items which would normally be tossed out at the end of the day.
Apps such as Too Good To Go are cropping up all over the world – countries such as Singapore, The Netherlands, Ireland, Much of Europe, The US, Australia, and even Asia, India and West Africa have their own versions of either Too Good To Go or similar apps. Although the initiative began with foodservice establishments, supermarkets are beginning to muscle in on the action too.
Olio is a UK waste app currently in the trial process of a partnership with Sainsbury’s, upon which volunteer users upload pictures of food left over from the current six participating branches.
Users of the app select the items they want, and then pick them up from a drop box at their local Sainsbury’s branch. Although the app did exist independently prior to the Sainsbury’s partnership, there is no doubt that the partnership has been and will continue to be instrumental in boosting its popularity and helping reduce food waste.
Sceptics could argue that food waste has long been an issue, and consumers are yet to demonstrate willingness to properly contribute to the problem – so why would 2017 be any different?
They argue that supermarket initiatives are doing little to combat what is in fact only a tiny part of the problem – most food wastage is done so within the home. However, there is little doubt that certainly large players such as supermarkets giving major publicity to the issue will keep food waste at the front of consumers’ minds – and therefore affect their attitudes to food waste everywhere, not just with regards to ‘wonky vegetables’.
And with an increasing amount of adults relying on and dedicating large amounts of time to technology and apps, is this shaping up to be the future of food waste?
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