Moving on to the second part of our #WorldFoodDay coverage – this time, on the big problem of food wastage. The UN has been working hard to pilot programs to improve understanding of reducing food loss and waste as pledged in its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3. We talk to two startups about how they are tackling the issue.
One-third of food produced for human consumption yearly – approximately 1.3 billion tons – is lost, or wasted,which the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) estimates costs the global community $1 trillion. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines food waste as “the discarding or alternative (non-food) use of food that is safe and nutritious for human consumption.”
It’s also bad for the environment. When we waste food, we also waste all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it. And if food goes to landfill and rots, it produces methane – a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide. About 11% of all the greenhouse gas emissions that come from the food system could be reduced if we stop wasting food. In the US alone, the production of lost or wasted food generates the equivalent of 37 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Defining ‘food waste’:
“The discarding or alternative (non-food) use of food that is safe and nutritious for human consumption.”
Source: UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Here are some ways the world’s tackling this issue. Over in the US, the state of Maine has introduced a law for schools to be able to give their food scraps to pig farmers, clearing confusion over the rules around the practice of feeding pigs food waste, according to TIME.
Meanwhile, French supermarket chains Carrefour and Franprix have politicians up in arms. As France celebrated its national anti-food waste day, Paris city councilor Arash Derambarsh staged raids on supermarket trash cans, uncovering food within their use-by dates, according to france24. Derambarsh told AFP he intended to file lawsuits against the chains for not honoring a 2016 law that prohibits throwing away edible food.
Snapshot: What is the world doing to cut down on food waste?
Over in the APAC region, Japan’s Food Loss Act took effect on October 1, as part of its government’s plans to taking measures to slash household food waste. It’s Tokyo’s way of saying, “we’re with you, UN.” The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls on all nations to halve food waste and reduce food loss by 2030. According to the Nikkei, F&B companies like Nichirei Foods and Calbee are tackling food waste at the production level, using AI and other tech to reduce the amount of food that never reaches consumers.
How Singapore’s TRIA and Flavorgator are creating innovative food waste solutions
Over in sunny Singapore, the land-scarce nation is working to send 30% less waste to its offshore landfills to help it last longer than the projected 2035. Startups like Sustainable food packaging startup TRIA have joined the cause. It has been making waves for its latest solution, Bio24, which reduces food packaging and waste into compost in 24 hours.
Elsewhere on the island, food rating app Flavorgator tackles the issue of food waste by nailing down what dishes are disliked on menus. French global food services giant Sodexo is funding its pilot on the Yale-National University of Singapore (Yale-NUS) College campus. It aims to allow dining providers to “understand [their] consumers’ preferences while giving [them] actionable insights” through “real-time feedback” on menus. Its founder Henry Dominguez-Letelier gives AFN his insights on how he could scale his product globally.
Joe Gan: Tell us about how your startup is aligned with the goals of World Food Day?
With our world-first, zero-waste solution, Bio24, allows single-use foodware and food waste to be turned into farm-ready fertilizer in 24 hours. It can be returned to the food production cycle and used to support sustainable food production. The fertilizer is purely organic with no added chemicals, and we are currently working with partner farms to ensure it’s blended to provide the right nutrient mix for cash crops. We believe we will be able to meet local vegetable farmers’ demand for some 10,000 tonnes of fertilizer a year, supporting Singapore’s plan to have 30% of its food grown locally by 2030.
Flavorgator’s Henry Dominguez-Letelier: Flavorgator is aligned with the goals of world food day since we are working towards solving the FAO goals of Zero Hunger and Healthier diets. To do so we are not only fighting the foodwaste crisis at a consumption level, but also assisting clients we work with to leverage consumer insights to introduce and improve healthier menu options.
How is your startup tackling the issue of food waste?
TRIA’s Ng: Our focus is on managing both single-use plastic foodware and food waste. As single-use food packaging is treated as general waste when contaminated with food, they are taken away to be incinerated and buried in Singapore’s only landfill. While incineration saves time and cost for processing these plastics, it is a stopgap measure that consumes fossil fuels, releases harmful gases and shortens the lifespan of the landfill – Singapore’s Pulau Semakau landfill is expected to run out of space by 2035 with current waste management practices.
Bio24’s ability to digest both foodware and food waste also removes the need for segregation – separating food waste from general waste for processing in food waste digestors. While they have been in the market for years, segregation is an additional step that requires time and resources, making them a less sustainable method for food waste management. With Bio24, we aim to reduce the amount of single-use plastics used with our foodservice partners and divert single-use foodware and food waste from the incinerator to be processed into farm-ready fertilizer.
How can Singapore waste less food?
TRIA’s Ng: We believe conscious consumption is essential to reducing waste. Dining at establishments certified as eco-friendly or zero waste can contribute to reducing one’s food and packaging waste footprint, as well as being mindful of the amount of packaging that comes with your food. More importantly, we think more Singaporeans could educate themselves on what happens after they discard the food and single-use packaging they use.
Although some businesses have switched to biodegradable plastics for their packaging, these biodegradable plastics are still treated as general waste, incinerated and buried in our landfills. This is due to the logistics for storage, and the costs of processing to break these down.