Would you eat food waste to help overcome the climate crisis? These companies are betting.


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Imagine a protein-packed snack made from leftover chicken pieces. Tea from avocado stones. Or season your burger with extracts derived from mushroom stems instead of salt. It may sound funky, but it could be part of the food future.

Societies around the world have always found innovative ways to harness food waste. But only recently has this become a more common idea for companies. Called ‘food processing’, this means that food waste from commercial processes that would otherwise end up in landfills is transformed into new edible or biodegradable products, from soups and juices to packaging and cosmetics.

“The vision,” said Turner Wyatt, founder and head of the non-profit food waste association Upcycled Food, is that one day, in the not-too-distant future, the consumer will go to any grocery store and fill their entire basket with items that help reduce food waste ’.

The food processing sector is small but growing. The sector was worth 46.7 billion last year and is expected to grow by 5 percent annually over the next decade. While most of this market is currently made up of companies that turn food waste into animal feed, Wyatt says creating more processed foods for humans could be a “powerful solution” to our food waste crisis.

The idea is that turning waste into consumer products can help companies mitigate their impact on the climate and the environment. About a third of the world’s food production remains unused, he says United Nations. That’s 1.3 billion tonnes of food a year that could be eaten – the production of which stands out 3.3 billion tons of warm climate greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere. US only 63 million tons food (up to 40% of the country’s food) 218 billion is wasted every year. USD.

This means a huge drain on natural resources. “It’s outrageous,” said Ignacio Gavilan, director of environmental sustainability at the Consumer Goods Forum. About 70% the world’s freshwater withdrawals go to agriculture, Gavilan said. “If we waste a third of the world’s products, we waste that water.”

Juice-making cellulose can be reused in the production of snacks.


Jekaterina Nikitina on Getty Images

Juice-making cellulose can be reused in the production of snacks.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Food Restoration Hierarchy the most important way to reduce waste is to limit the amount generated in the first place. That means no surplus food is bought or produced, but it also means making new products from waste generated in the industrial food process, Wyatt said.

That requires opportunities to be found throughout the supply chain, such as “things like used grains left over from beer production, or all the pulp left over from juice production,” he said. “You can’t show up in a food bank with a bunch of juice pulp.”

Perhaps the most popular and recognizable food waste campaigns are “ugly food” initiatives.

With the recovery of irregular, unwanted fruit and vegetables about a decade ago, society has supporting startups promise to save food, they say, would otherwise be thrown away, which would be an intermediary between farmers, consumers and food banks.

Although the model saw its part criticism, these companies managed to raise tens of millions of dollars and recruit hundreds people. Ir major retailers, including Kroger, Whole Foods, and Walmart, now sell boxes with products that don’t look perfect enough to sell on shelves. From 2017 to 2019. Imperfect Produce Basic Food Ordering Service claims that selling ugly food helped save £ 30 million in food.

Purchase "ugly" fruits and vegetables have become increasingly popular over the past decade.


Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press

Buying nasty fruits and vegetables has become increasingly popular over the last decade.

Then there are all the by-products of production. New York-based seasoning company Sir Kensington’s uses chickpea liquid, which would be released in the production of humus, to vegan mayonnaise. Chipotle produces clothing dyes from avocado cuttings. During tequila production, the remaining agave fibers are converted to bioplastics a partnership between Jose Cuervo and Ford Motor Co.

In all, the processing of surplus or donated food into new products and the use of ‘ugly’ products, together with the freezing of surplus harvests to prevent them from deteriorating, could prevent 368,000 tonnes of food being wasted in the US each year, under the non-profit food waste organization ReFED.

Last year, members of the Upcycled Food Association, including pet food, coffee, juices and snacks, helped prevent around £ 8 million in food waste, Wyatt said.

However, in order for processed food to have any effects on humans, it is vital that businesses increase their activity, said Toine Timmermans, coordinator of the Dutch Circular Economy Food Task Force. To do this, they need to build their customer base, which is challenging when you sell items that are considered waste and often at a higher price than traditional items.

Dutch Shopping Center 2018 Dedicated passage for food surplus. Some of them were well sold and the project was released to several other stores, but in the end the prices were too high to compete with regular goods and the idea was too niche to become a permanent passage in the grocery store, ”explained Timmermans, who helped oversee six-month pilot. Some brands have moved their products online or targeted the food service industry rather than selling through retail chains.

In the same year, Tyson released the protein crisp Yappah, made from a combination of the remaining chicken garnish and the remaining pulp and puree from Molson Coors beer. But last year, the product was shut down “for a variety of reasons, including overall viability,” a Tyson spokesman said. According to Food diving, reviews were mixed, “some customers praised the idea and taste, others the packaging and the price.”

In the United States alone, up to 40% of the country's food is consumed every year.


VW Pics / Universal Images via Getty Images

In the United States alone, up to 40% of the country’s food is consumed every year.

Timmermans argued that these products and initiatives can make the biggest difference simply by raising consumer awareness of their impact on food waste more broadly. Whether this will encourage consumers to shop more efficiently, demand specific products or demand a more sustainable business in general, a change in public attitudes can help to “encourage” companies to examine their supply chains in more detail.

“In the Western world, we produce too much,” Timmermans said, so it’s not just about finding ways to make something out of the surplus after it’s already generated. On the contrary, it should be to ensure that we produce only what we need and to use everything we produce efficiently.

“For companies to really deal with waste in their supply chain, both at harvest and in terms of how it is sold in the store, this issue needs to be ‘paramount’ to CEOs and boards of directors,” Gavilan said. Despite the fact that the business case is clear, for every dollar invested in reducing food losses, 14 USD savings in operating costs – “the barrier is for companies that don’t make a difference”.

Production accounts 2% of total food lost In the U.S., companies typically analyze and disclose information only from their operations. To successfully address these food waste issues, companies need to check their entire supply chain to find out where the biggest losses are and where they can do better.

For example, about 16% of food waste is generated at farm level. That’s why in August, the Consumer Goods Forum formed a coalition of business and producers to combat food waste by uncovering food loss data in the supply chain and working with suppliers to increase the efficiency of each step.

Stronger government incentives and regulations are also needed to make things move forward. In the US, for example, it’s still incredibly cheap to just send food to a landfill.

After all, Timmermans says, this is a change in our mindset. From the very beginning of the production process, companies, farmers and producers have to think about how to use and sell all parts of their product; The “all-use” model is what Timmermans calls it. “This is part of the future that we will see as a systematic solution to reducing food waste.”

HuffPostWork in progress“The series focuses on the impact of business on society and the environment and is funded Porticus. That’s part ofThis new world“Series. All content is editorially independent and does not affect Porticus’ contribution. If you have an idea or tip for the editorial series, email me thisnewworld@huffpost.com.


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