October 2018 − Exploring Life
Crooked carrots, brown bananas, expired pasta – every day, edible foods end up in the garbage instead of on the plate. Food waste is a global problem – and a question of values.
Since March 2018, Italian star chef Massimo Bottura has been serving fine foods in the ‘Refettorio Paris’, located in the crypt of the church of La Madeleine, in Paris’s 8th Arrondissement. Every evening, 100 meals are served to local people in need. The menu is prepared from food donations that originate, for example, in the large supermarkets, such as the Carrefour®. These are fresh, palatable foods that, due to either optical flaws or expired sell-by dates, can no longer be sold in shops.
In contrast to German supermarkets, retailers in France are required by law to donate so-called superfluous foods. Approximately 130 kilograms of food, destined for the landfill, are used by Bottura and his team every night. In his battle against food waste, and to further social inclusion, the chef founded his non-profit organization ‘Food for Soul’ in 2015. His Refettorios are now represented in Milan, Rio de Janeiro, London and Paris.
Global problem, far-reaching consequences
According to the study ‘Global Food Losses and Food waste’, conducted by the Save Food initiative, the waste of food is a global problem with far-reaching consequences, as food waste contributes substantially to the loss of resources such as water. Since food waste also produces greenhouse gas emissions, it is thus directly linked to global warming. Each year, roughly 1.3 billion tons of food are either wasted or lost worldwide. According to reports by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), approximately 222 million tons end up in the garbage in Europe and North America alone – almost the same amount of food that is produced in the countries of the sub-Sahara.
Simone Pott of World Hunger Aid says: “Across the world, 815 million people are suffering from hunger, while at the same time, a third of all food produced is lost during production or transport, or it rots in warehouses. Some of these losses are preventable.”
The sustainability goal 12.3 of the United Nations provides that global food waste per capita on the retail and consumer level be reduced by half and that food waste occurring at the production level and during delivery be reduced.
The EU research project ‘Resource Efficient Food and Drink for the Entire Supply Chain’, ReFresh for short, follows the same goal. 26 cooperation partners from 12 European countries and China work on new approaches to prevent loss by utilizing food that would otherwise be discarded – across the entire value-added chain. “We see that engaged players from industry, business, organized civil society and research, with support from the legislature, can together make a difference”, says Nora Brüggemann of the Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production. She coordinates ReFresh project work in Germany. She is pleased that numerous activities are being initiated in companies as well as during interactions with consumers. “There is not one specific measure that is capable of instantly and drastically reducing food loss and waste in a single step.”
The Swedish app ‘Karma’ (karma.life) represents one approach against food waste. In 40 Swedish cities, as well as in London, it connects hungry customers with restaurants, cafes and grocery stores that offer superfluous foods at half price. Within the scope of ReFresh, issues such as customer communication on the value of food become topics of open discussion. Brüggemann says: “Our goal is to increase appreciation for food – on the economic and ecologic as well as on the moral level. Players within the supply chain must realize that production and consumption of food use valuable resources.”
Most consumers are not aware that the sell-by date has nothing to do with the expiration date of food, but that it is merely a guarantee for product quality, pre-determined by the manufacturer. Michael Schieferstein, food expert and founder of the organization ‘Foodfighters’, which mainly relies on education on the topic of food waste, says: “With many products such as pasta or flour, a sell-by date is unnecessary. For the purpose of increased transparency, the sell-by date should be determined by the legislature, not by business.”
A study conducted by the German Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection shows: 84 percent of food in German households is discarded based on an expired sell-by date. Other European countries display a higher level of appreciation for food. Within a mere 5 years, Denmark was able to reduce food waste by 25 percent. This success can be largely attributed to activist Selina Juul. In 2008, she founded ‘Stop Spild Af Mad’ (‘Stop Wasting Food’). During the course of her work, Juul develops educational programs for schools, and she relies on consumer power. Consumers, in her opinion, can achieve great results simply by cooking with leftover foods. She convinced Danish grocery chains to advertise, rather than discard, products with expired sell-by dates.
Two years ago, the store WeFood® opened in Copenhagen. Here, foods are sold which had previously been rejected by other supermarkets, import firms and local companies. For 30 to 50 percent of the original price. A win-win situation for all concerned and a valuable contribution to the fight against food waste.
Digital saviors of food: