According to the UN Environment Program (UNEP) report, one-third of the food produced each year is wasted, which amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted each year. With this amount, we can feed up to 900 million hungry people annually. People may wonder with this number why do food crises still exist? An obvious answer lies in the food waste management system. Wouldn’t it be better if the system was more efficient?
Let’s first examine a country that does this well and study its best practices. France is the leading country in food waste management with its Food Sustainability Index ranking number one in the world. France has only 33% food waste at the consumer level compared to the European Union at 53%. The French government has a strong commitment to tackling this issue. In 2015 France became the first country to ban edible food waste from supermarkets, forcing the stores to donate food to charities instead. The French government tackled these problems by imposing a legislative act to fine businesses that discard food. The fines for discarding edible food can reach up to 0.1% of the annual turnover. These businesses are compelled to donate food for charity or convert it to either fertilizer or animal feed to avoid these fines. Recycling has now become a mandatory process for businesses such as hospitality and restaurants. Compared to other countries without this kind of legislation, donating unsold food may be the most environmentally friendly option but it may not always be the most profitable option due to the increase in operational costs.
Besides the legislative point of view, the local authorities have launched a biowaste recycling initiative to encourage citizens to recycle their food waste in households. The French capital authority has distributed recycle bins to Paris residents to sort biowaste within households. The waste disposal service will collect the waste and converted the biowaste into fertilizer or biofuel.
With this support from the government and the local authorities, opportunities arise for startups and businesses to provide services to fulfill any existing gap in the value chain. For instance, Winnow has been providing food waste management software primarily to restaurants and hotels. Winnow has now been installed in 23 IKEA stores across the United Kingdom and Ireland with its vision to reinvent the kitchen of the future. The user installs the camera in the bin where food waste is collected. The program is trained to recognize the food waste type and calculate the cost for each type of food waste. The data is then analyzed and provide insights into the businesses’ kitchens. The software enables the business to monitor their food waste and provides analytics reporting. With this ecosystem, the private sector and the public can work together to achieve a common goal which is to build a more sustainable, technologically advanced, and environmental-friendly community.
Author: Siwagorn Limwathanagura; Corresponding Author: John Crane